Hunt for rape captives

2012-09-28 00:00

A FRANTIC mother and a police sting operation have saved a young Nkandla woman, who was rescued this week from a gang who are still believed to be holding several other women captive as sex slaves in KwaZulu-Natal.

Gang members are demanding ransoms from their victims’ families. As reported in The Witness yesterday, the gang is believed to have already killed one woman, who tried to escape by reaching for one of her abductor’s firearms and was shot dead.

The SA Police Service is now racing against time to find the remaining 10 women.

After a 23-year-old woman from Nkandla was rescued in Pinetown on Wednesday morning in a police sting operation, the Special Task Force and a number of specialist units — including the Provincial Tracking Team and the National Intervention Unit — are combing the province to find where the abducted victims are being kept.

There were conflicting reports yesterday that the group of kidnapped women, who are apparently being held in a shipping container and guarded day and night, are either in northern KwaZulu-Natal or in the greater Durban area. The women are allegedly repeatedly raped by their captors, who are believed to be South African and foreign nationals.

The woman who was rescued by police underwent counselling in Eshowe yesterday and was unable to speak to The Witness.

However, her mother recounted her daughter’s ordeal, saying their reunion was “very emotional”.

“I couldn’t stop crying. We hugged for a long time. I had lost hope. I couldn’t eat or sleep at night thinking about the trauma my child was going through on a daily basis.”

She described how her daughter had told her she had been tied to a chair and left naked with her mouth taped.

Her captors repeatedly raped her and the other victims, giving them food once a day.

The kidnapped women were not allowed to communicate with each other and were guarded by armed men around the clock.

“After my daughter failed to return home after a few days I reported her missing to the SAPS.

“But last week we received our first phone call from a man who couldn’t speak Zulu properly, demanding we pay a R20 000 ransom for our daughter’s safe return.

“We told him we could only afford R5 000, which he accepted.

“We then informed the police and immediately deposited R300 into our daughter’s Postbank account,” she said.

The mother said the men confiscated her daughter’s clothes, only giving her clothing when it was time to withdraw money.

On Monday the family received a second phone call asking for more money. The family deposited R2 000 into their daughter’s account.

By this stage the Eshowe SAPS had set up a sting operation to arrest the suspects and rescue her daughter.

According to a police source, the R300 was deposited to see where the money would be withdrawn.

“Once we had a reasonable idea of where they might withdraw again we made sure our officers were in the vicinity to rescue the victim and arrest the suspects,” said the source.

On Wednesday morning the victim was rescued at the Postbank in Pinetown. But her abductors managed to flee and no arrests were made.

According to provincial SAPS spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge, police believe the men suspected they were being set up and slipped away.

“The difficulty we had was we knew what she looked like, but not her captors. They were probably watching from a distance. She was in a terrible state. Our members are thick on the ground. There is a serious sense of urgency to find these remaining women alive. This is a huge investigation. We are hoping to release an identi-kit shortly,” said Mdunge.

The Witness has learnt that when the woman first came to the bank to withdraw the R300, she was accompanied by two men.

However, the CCTV equipment in the bank was out of order or was not recording at the time and police were not in a position to identify the men ahead of the sting.

A well-placed SAPS source told The Witness the woman had a medical examination, which revealed “significant bruising”.

According to police, the woman boarded a taxi in Eshowe for Nkandla on September 12.

The same taxi picked up a second woman and drove them towards Empangeni instead.

The two women were then driven to a field where they were raped and forced into a black Toyota Corolla.

They were then taken to a house with no windows and then later transported in a truck and taken to the container where four other women were already being kept.

On Tuesday it is alleged a further six women were brought to the container.

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