Father of missing Cape Town teen opens up about her disappearance

2017-08-25 14:53
Reynhardt Muller, 35, father of Anchen Muller, said he was just  glad that his only daughter was safe and back home. (Supplied, Facebook)

Reynhardt Muller, 35, father of Anchen Muller, said he was just glad that his only daughter was safe and back home. (Supplied, Facebook)

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Cape Town - "When she saw me, she hugged me, sobbed and said: 'Dad, I'm very sorry'."

That's how Reynhardt Muller, 35, recounted seeing his daughter Anchen for the first time after she'd been missing for days.

Everything was too much and too emotional, he said, he didn't want to scold her. He was just too glad that his only daughter was safe and back home.

Anchen, a Grade 7 pupil at Gene Louw Primary in Durbanville, outside Cape Town, has been placed in her father's care after being missing for several days. She disappeared from her mother's home on Friday evening and was found in Bishop Lavis at about 22:35 on Tuesday night.

She is ashamed, sorry and humiliated, said her dad, a tough guy with a soft heart, in a frank interview with Netwerk24. He is a spray painter who lives in Protea Heights in Brackenfell.

Anchen and her mother live in Vredekloof, also in Brackenfell.

She is sad. And she promised to never do it again.

"I haven't said anything as yet. We spoke a bit. I just want her to get better.

"She is terribly embarrassed. She didn't think that it would escalate to such an extent. I asked her: 'Did you think we were going to wait for you? We obviously went big'."  

His daughter's disappearance was major news and again drew attention to children's use of social media. It also highlights the darker side of social media and made him more aware of paying special attention to what was going on in his daughter's life. He now wants to warn parents that they have to be aware of what is going on in their children's cellphones.

Secret life on Facebook

Anchen on Thursday evening sent him a WhatsApp message in which she asked for money for a Bible class trip.

"I took R200 to school on Friday and said I'd be seeing her on Saturday. The plan was to go for an ice cream at Clifton. She didn't mention anything about sleeping over at a friend’s house, like she told her mother."

His ex, Hanlie Ferreira, whom he divorced in 2008, informed him that Anchen was sleeping over at a friend's house.

"Anchen grabbed her bag, said 'love you ma', and rushed out because her friends were supposedly already at the gate to pick her up.  

"Instead, she got into an Uber taxi which took her to Bishop Lavis."

When Ferreira informed him that Anchen hadn’t come home on Sunday evening, he immediately went to the Brackenfell police station.

"I'm her dad, I just decided to do it. I’d feel better doing it myself."

On Monday he found out about his daughter's "secret life" on Facebook.

He saw how many friends she had who he didn't know and people who were not in her immediate circle of friends. There were also posts by Anchen in which she used vulgar language.

"I couldn't believe what I was reading. The people she mixes with and the photos... That’s what shocked me most. And that she writes things such as that on Facebook. It’s not the person we know."

'The anger and the pain'

He was angry, shocked and sad. "So many things went through my mind. But the fact that she was missing was much worse than the anger and the pain."   

Some of the posts, such as her mother taking money from her, are lies, said Muller.

"I think she said that in an attempt to be cool," he said.

For him it was like another child leading a double life, and if he'd seen it, he would have disciplined her. 

He'd gone to buy her butterfly stickers on Saturday, because he thought it would make her happy.

Muller said he and Anchen's mother created a Facebook account for her last year, which they monitored and managed themselves.

Anchen got a new phone in April and he thinks she might have created the "other" Facebook profile in May.

He couldn't find her Facebook profile. "When I did a search, there was 'no results found', so she must have blocked me."

Anchen had once before spoken to a boy without her parents' approval. "Her phone was confiscated for a month and when we gave it back to her, she was given a minute to delete everything. We also changed her number."

He admits that his daughter is spoilt and that he is partly to blame. "She has everything she wanted. She is our first priority. I just have one child," he said. "I just thought about what I would've done when I was young."

Search

Muller and a friend had searched every bit of veld in the northern suburbs on Monday and Tuesday. He'd expected the worst.

"When they told me they'd found her phone, but not my child, I suspected that she was lying somewhere in a bin or in the veld."

In Oakdale, they went from door to door at homes where they knew some of her friends stayed. At a supermarket in Vredekloof he watched two hours of CCTV footage. A private investigator was paid R600 to try and find her phone, but it had already been switched off at that stage. A WhatsApp group was created.   

He even sent money, airtime and data to her phone and bank account, in the hopes that she would use her card or contact him. All came to nought.

"She was using crutches because she'd hurt her knee, and I tried finding a crutch somewhere."

When he got the news late on Tuesday that she'd been found, he immediately went to the police station with a cooldrink. He was so happy to see his daughter in one piece.

Counselling

Anchen is receiving counselling by social workers and also private psychologists. "We will pay for it as long as it's necessary. Her attitude has to change," said her dad.

And no, she isn't getting her phone back.

She is going to stay with her father for an indefinite period.

"The plan had always been that she would come and stay with me next year. She is going to high school and I’ll make sure that it's a good school."

And he'll talk and be more careful.

"One doesn't always know what your children are doing. It's not always possible to watch them 24/7. When that door closes, you don't know what is going on inside. But it's the first time it has happened and she's promised not to do it again.   

"I always preach to her about boyfriends. She says she wants to move out when she's 18, but I say she'll move out when she's 28.

"I also preach about her school marks, which is very important, especially in high school. She's definitely going to study further after school, that's non-negotiable."

Daddy's girl

He described their relationship as very good. "She's a daddy's girl, she knows how to get what she wants from me, but she also knows her boundaries. When she's with me, there will be no sleepovers. It's a 'no-no' for me. I am just too aware of what is going on in the country."

But this one he didn't see coming.

"She conned even me... I have just the one daughter so I do things with her that I would've done with a son, such as watch rugby, kick a ball around, play poker.

"But the lesson I learnt from this is to keep your child away from social media. I know you can't keep watch over your child from morning to night. But you can watch what is going on on her cellphone.

"Those characters she'd been involved with I wouldn't have allowed in my yard. They're the kind of people you don't allow into your home."

And what, in his opinion, should happen to these 'guys'?

"She lied, she said she was 19. If she'd pretended to be 19 and they'd accepted her at her word, what can happen? I don't know. I would like to get stuck into them, but what can one do? I don't think anything will come of it."

Going back to school on Monday is weighing heavily on his and Anchen's minds. Her class mates are already receiving counselling.

Comments on social media

"The people on social media think I allow my child to come and go as she pleases. That's not the case; I am a very strict dad.

"I trusted her enough not to police her every moment of the day. I think that's the biggest lesson I've learnt: I trust her too readily.

"I didn't think my daughter was capable of taking an Uber to Bishop Lavis. She's usually the one who tells friends they mustn't do wrong things."

Despite the lessons learnt, the comments from the public hurt the most. "There was one which read: 'It will be better if she just died'. For a father to read something like that... You want to write to that person and say wait until that woman's child goes missing and wonder how she will feel. It is a very sensitive topic."

Muller has a tattoo with his daughter's name on his left arm – a tattoo he and his daughter picked together. 

"I always wanted my daughter's name on me. I've always been proud of her."

Is there anything he will do differently now?

"I will listen more closely and pay attention. Attention. I think that's what she really wanted.

Read more on:    cape town

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