Happy ending to hijack nightmare

2013-12-21 00:00

A KIDNAPPED child. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare; fortunately this one had a happy ending.

Early on Thursday evening, just before eight o’clock, Elias Khoza, a building sub-contractor, was driving his Isuzu double-cab bakkie along Bellair Road through Cato Manor. Beside him was his two-year-old son Emmanuel; on the back seat his wife Precious was holding their six-week-old daughter Lucy.

When Elias spotted a friend by the old SPCA access road he pulled over and got out to have a chat while Emmanuel took over the driver’s seat and began playing with the steering wheel.

“It was all so sudden,” said Precious. “Three guys entered the vehicle from three sides at the same time. The guy at the wheel gave Emmanuel to his friend and then he reversed the car. I managed to get out with the little one but Emmanuel was still inside.”

Elias tried to stop the vehicle and climbed onto the bonnet. “But then they fired a gun at me,” he said.

The car sped off and some other cars at the scene took off in pursuit. Elias went to the nearby Cato Manor police station to report the incident while friends took Precious and the baby into their care. The family live in the area.

The police put out a countrywide e-mail alert — “Urgent appeal: two-year-old kidnapped” — including a photograph of young Emmanuel.

“There was no tracking device in the car,” said investigating officer Detective Warrant Officer Yamarasen Govender from SAPS Cato Manor Detective Services. “So we checked all the [traffic CCTV] cameras around Durban.”

Govender admitted the case was a harrowing one. “I’m a single guy but this case touched me so much,” said Govender. “Imagine what it must have felt like for the parents.

“There is always the worry in these cases involving children that they have been taken for muthi purposes. I had a headache all night.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel’s mother couldn’t sleep, saying, “I was so traumatised”.

Then just before 11 am yesterday, Govender got a call — Emmanuel had been found by a member of the community outside the kwaMashu Men’s Hostel. “I went to the kwaMashu police station where he had been taken and we gave him some juice and chips to help him feel at ease with us. He seemed fine; he’d already made some friends there.”

Then Govender returned to Cato Manor police station with Emmanuel where he was reunited with his relieved parents.

However, before he could be officially returned to his parents, Emmanuel had to be taken to a district surgeon for a medical check-up. Once Emmanuel had been given the medical all-clear he was reunited with his parents at Cato Manor police station.

“We just asked everyone to pray,” said Major Edwin Michael Oliver, branch commander of Cato Manor Detectives. “And thankfully God heard us.”

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