Matthew Ohlsson would have celebrated his 29th birthday this year.
It’s been 20 years since the Mitchells Plain boy disappeared and his mother has not given up hope of finding him.
Speaking out for the first time in years, mom Michelle Ohlsson, 49, this week broke her silence and spoke to the Daily Voice about the heartache and pain of losing her little boy.
Two months ago Michelle and her husband Michael also became grandparents for the first time, after their daughter, Mel Ohlsson, 31, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The Mitchells Plain couple have four children and one foster child.
Matthew was just nine years old when he went missing.
Michelle will never forget the autumn of 1997, when a barefoot Matthew, dressed in only a vest and ondies, disappeared without a trace while taking out the dirt bin.
Holding her grandchild tightly, Michelle says the new life is a blessing for her family, but also made her wonder anew what had happened to her son.
“I recently became a grandmother and now it is something to look forward to, when you’re feeling down,” she says.
“My son Justin, who is married now, is looking more and more like Matthew.”
She refuses to speak about him in the past tense, and says she’s never given up hope of finding him alive.
“He is mine…I can’t erase him or cut that cord. He is part of me.
“I ask myself, does he have children or is he just bones now,” says Michelle.
The mom says like so many other families of child victims, she too took note when President Jacob Zuma recently visited the parents of little Courtney Pieters, who was raped and killed earlier this month.
The family’s boarder, Mortimer Saunders, 40, has been arrested in connection with the three-year old’s murder.
There was also outrage after Zuma gave the Elsies River family R10 000 cash, and promised to buy them a new home.
Michelle is also kwaad, and says it would have been better if the president promised to improve police services instead.
“Police and search teams need to be more compassionate and dedicated and trust their gut instincts to find our missing children.
“There is no amount of money which can remedy what a parent feels; I don’t want money, I want my child,” she says.
Today Michelle and her family continue to assist families in need and also fosters children.
The couple started the organisation “Concerned Parents of Missing Children” in 1999 and has found over 200 missing kids.
“I thank God for my strength that I’m able to look beyond the hurt, confusion and never lose focus.
“When you start looking for a child, it is not about following a routine only, but by trusting your instincts,” she says.