‘I can start living again’

2007-12-03 00:00

The anguish and helplessness of watching hijackers drive away with her two babies strapped screaming in their car seats in Napierville on Saturday afternoon will not be easily forgotten by Pietermaritzburg mother Sindi Brown.

But after “16 hours of hell” Brown and her husband Barry were miraculously reunited with their missing daughters, Zizi (one) and Owethu (two), yesterday morning.

The little girls were found crying but unharmed — locked in and still in their car seats — in their mother’s hijacked Nissan double-cab bakkie parked in Bhekuzulu Road, Ashdown. The vehicle was seen parked there from 6 pm on Saturday. Fortunately the babies were rescued early yesterday before the temperature soared.

“This was a terribly painful thing … I couldn’t save my children. I want to warn people to always be on the lookout. I felt safe where I was … but I wasn’t,” said Sindi Brown, explaining that she was parked in the gateway of a police officer’s home, on her way to fetch her friend, Therinique “Tosca” Nicholson.

Nicholson and her husband, Garren, are both constables in the SAPS.

She had popped into the house for “seconds”, leaving Nicholson seated in the car with her own daughter, Leah, as well as Zizi and Owethu, when the hijackers struck. Brown got back to hear Tosca scream and see her leap from the car as the hijackers sped off with her babies.

Garren Nicholson chased after the hijackers by car but they evaded him.

Tosca Nicholson told The Witness she was in the front passenger seat with Leah (16 months) on her lap when she saw two men on the road. As she watched one reached into a sports bag and took out a firearm.

“I almost threw my baby out of the car … she fell down as I jumped. Then I just ran screaming. They drove off with two little ones in the back.”

Nicholson said she no longer feels safe in her home and does not know how long it will take her to get over the shock. “We are just grateful the babies are safe”.

Sindi Brown said she cannot thank the Mkhize family of Ashdown enough for getting Owethu and Zizi out of the bakkie, feeding, changing and caring for them until the police and family were able to get there yesterday morning.

Brown said it was lucky that local residents decided to take a closer look at the bakkie after hearing news of the abduction on the radio.

Little Owethu, who appears to be the most traumatised by the incident, managed to unlock the vehicle doors from the inside as the hijackers had gone off with the keys, her proud and relieved parents told The Witness.

The overjoyed couple were yesterday filled with praise for the SA Police Services, family, friends and “total strangers” who all rallied to their aid and searched tirelessly throughout Saturday night for the little girls.

“We were desperate. We prayed and we drove, and drove and drove for hours … and we even offered a R50 000 reward. They [the babies] are my whole life. Now I can start living again,” said their dad, Barry.

Barry Brown said friends and relatives came from as far afield as Johannesburg to join in the search for the little girls.

Winnie Mbambo, Sindi’s sister, said after news of the abduction was reported on radio stations around the country the family were flooded with calls and every possible lead was followed up.

Family and friends split up into teams to hunt for the girls.

“It was so emotional when the call finally came that they were found and they are safe … their father [Barry] just burst into tears,” she said. “It was the greatest moment in all our lives.”

Another relative, Deon Nzama, who came from Durban to join the search, said it is time the government clamps down drastically on crime. He said he supports the return of the death penalty.

SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram expressed appreciation to all those who helped with the search. By late yesterday no one had been arrested in connection with the incident.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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