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Massive search for missing toddler

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“The mother of the missing toddler managed to push him away when he tried to rape her”

SEARCH: Community members and police near the area where the toddlers pants was found in the bushes along the Vaal River in Rooikoppies on Saturday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

COMMUNITY members, the police and members of Operation Wanya Tsotsi have joined hands in searching for a toddler who went missing on the weekend, although there is not much hope of finding her alive.

The two-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped from her Delportshoop home on Saturday and a person has been arrested in connection with her disappearance

Teams of people, including pupils dressed in their school uniforms, yesterday scoured the veld and areas of dense foliage near a river where the missing toddler’s clothes were found on the weekend.

The girl is believed to have been abducted from her home in Rooikoppies, Delportshoop after a man allegedly tried to rape and threatened to kill her mother.

Relatives of the missing toddler said yesterday that there were other children, including one-year-old twins and two boys aged eight and 10, who were asleep inside the house at the time of the incident.

The alleged perpetrator apparently gained entry into the house by breaking a window.

“The mother of the missing toddler managed to push him away when he tried to rape her,” a relative said.

A 41-year-old man, Johannes Morwe, made a brief appearance in the Barkly West Magistrate’s Court yesterday in connection with the incident and he is expected to re-appear today to arrange for legal representation.

Family members said that they had searched tirelessly over the weekend, in the pouring rain, for the toddler.

“There was blood on the clothes that were found abandoned in the veld near to her home, which is situated a few metres away. We do not know if she was raped or murdered. The family will not be able to rest until she is found.”

Relatives claimed that the police had only sent out search and rescue teams yesterday to search in earnest for the girl.

“We only saw the mounted unit arrive in Delportshoop today (yesterday). By then it was already too late. Instead of looking for a toddler, we will now have to search for a body.

“Over the weekend there were one or two police officers involved in the search. The captain said that he was only informed about the incident on April 22 (Monday).

“It appears as if the toddler’s disappearance and what she had to endure was not regarded as a priority. The police informed us that the weather was not conducive to the search and left soon after they arrived. We were the ones, risking our lives, searching the river, where we suspect that her body was dumped.

“There is no way that she would have survived on her own, after four days. We were not prepared to wait patiently until the police decided to start looking for her.”

An uncle of the toddler said that the accused was known to her. “The girl would not have been afraid to accompany the accused, as he was frequently visiting the house.”

Community members gathered outside the Delportshoop police station yesterday, demanding that the accused be forced to show the police where he had left the girl.

“He must confess to what he did. Enough is enough, we cannot allow such people to walk the streets. We are certain that if we start blockading the streets or resort to taking the law into our own hands, the police will not be impressed with us.

“Criminals are given more rights and protection than the innocent people who are being killed. Why did the accused appear in court in Barkly West when the crime was committed in Delportshoop?”

The community members also requested the police to send out the SAPS diving unit to search the river for the girl.

Police spokesperson Captain Olebogeng Tawana said that the police were investigating a case of attempted rape, housebreaking with intent to steal, housebreaking with intent to assault and kidnapping.

“The accused was arrested during the early hours of Sunday morning on charges of attempted rape,” said Tawana.

“It is alleged that the suspect went into the house of the complainant and attempted to rape her. The complainant was sleeping in her house in Delportshoop when the suspect threatened to kill her, and in the process attempted to rape her.”

Tawana added that a struggle took place between the complainant and the accused.

“The suspect broke free and ran away. It is believed that during the incident the suspect snatched the complainant’s two-year-old child.”

Tawana disputed that the police had been slow in sending out a search party.

“The SAPS Search and Rescue unit, the Galeshewe Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit, Delportshoop detectives, SAPS mounted unit, SAPS Crime Scene Laboratories, Criminal Record and Crime Scene, K9 unit, SAPS air wing and provincial detectives were dispatched to the scene on Saturday as soon as the case was reported.

“Forensic social workers were also on hand to provide moral support to the family.”