E-mail alert on kidnapping

2010-03-19 00:00

IF you are a parent and you have not taken seriously the e-mails currently circulating about near-abductions and attempted kidnappings at schools and malls around the province, it is now time to pay attention.

One e-mail concerns two cases involving Holy Childhood Convent, a primary school in Eshowe.

Though not all the information in the e-mail is accurate, principal Margie Salter confirmed to The Witness they did happen.

She described the incidents as “extremely worrying”, adding that they have had to tighten security.

Salter said three weeks ago, three men in a white taxi tried to abduct a grade two pupil, but because of the after­care sister’s vigilance, they were unsuccessful.

Salter said the sister was waiting outside with the last pupil to leave when a taxi sped into the premises. The sister was told that the men were sent by “Rose” to fetch the child. The men also gave a Zulu surname that Salter could not remember.

However, they could not say whether the child they were fetching was a boy or girl. Salter believes this is because the little girl had short hair and was in her sports clothes, making it hard for someone who did not know her to distinguish what gender she was.

When the little girl told the sister she did not know the men, the sister refused to let them take her. Salter said the men then drove off laughing and joking. Moments later, the parent came for the child.

Last week, Salter said a man was seen taking pictures of pupils with his cellphone. But he was alone and not on the school property as the e-mail suggested.

“It’s been quite scary. We have an electric fence and a security gate and we have a guard at the gate. But we have become more aware of tightening our security. We’ll be going back to car disks and plan on taking that very seriously.”

Salter said all the local schools have been contacted and warned about this. Their teachers have also been talking to pupils about the dangers of getting into strangers’ cars.

Police are investigating a Pietermaritzburg man in his 20s who was seen taking pictures of little girls at Gert Maritz school last month.

The man’s cellphone was sent for analysis and, depending on the outcome, a case will be opened against him, police said.

In another e-mail, a Durban mother wrote about an incident that she said happened at the Gateway mall while her family were out for supper on March 5.

Though The Witness has not been able to speak to the woman, other mothers whose children go to the same school believe the e-mail is true.

According to the woman, a man, neatly dressed in takkies, jeans and a white T-shirt, tried to take her five- year-old daughter who was standing by a fish pond, while she stood directly opposite her.

She claims her children, aged five and two, ran off while they were waiting for a table at a restaurant. The woman said she followed them.

She said the man she believes to be between 30 and 35 walked up to the girl after her brother left her alone at the pond. The man allegedly put out his hand to the little girl and started walking with her towards the road.

The woman says she walked parallel to her daughter and the alleged attempted kidnapper and eventually caught up with them at the top of the fish pond.

She says she shouted at the man, who at this stage had been joined by a woman, and he let her daughter go.

“As I had been watching my kids, I saw this all happening before my eyes,” the e-mail reads.

“I told him he should not be talking to children he did not know. He never looked at me or said a word to me. He turned to the lady and said something to her before casually letting Sophia’s hand go and walking off in the direction of the fountain with their backs to me,” she added.

Gateway’s public relations officer was called repeatedly yesterday and did not take the paper’s calls.

The Witness understands that the mother was to meet with the Gateway team yesterday over the matter.

Meanwhile, police are adamant that none of the e-mails describe incidents that actually happened.

Senior Superintendent Jay Naicker said there is no intelligence to indicate that children are going to be trafficked because of the soccer World Cup.

In the case of the Holy Childhood Convent, Naicker said the mother of the child involved later said she had sent someone to collect the child.

“There are people that want to spread unnecessary panic for reasons unknown. We would advise parents to always take care of their children and ensure that they are supervised by a responsible adult, not only because of the World Cup,” he said.

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