‘It could’ve been me’

2014-12-24 00:00

A CHILDHOOD friend of Fiona Harvey said that her disappearance had inculcated a fear in their tight-knit community.

The abduction of Fiona on a muggy summer’s day 26 years ago left an indelible mark on the city of Pietermaritzburg.

The boyish 11-year-old girl had walked to a café less than a kilometre from her Clarendon home, but never returned.

She is understood to have fallen victim to paedophile Gert van Rooyen in his unchecked spree, which stretched across the country.

With his girlfriend, Joey Haarhoff, he is thought to have abducted and murdered at least six young girls between 1988 and 1989.

In 1989, the couple kidnapped a 16-year-old Pretoria girl and locked her in a cupboard at their Capital Park home.

Her escape left the two exposed and when police closed in on them, Van Rooyen murdered Haarhoff and killed himself.

The hunt for Fiona gained frenetic momentum in the days and weeks after she vanished, with thousands of volunteers and platoons of police officers searching the city.

Tracey Vorster had attended Clarendon Primary School with Fiona and lived nearby.

“We knew each other at school — she was a year above me.

“I think the most troubling thing about her disappearance is the realisation that it could have really happened to any of us.

“I think what scared me was that we all used to walk around the area and it was really normal to play in the streets.

“I was also blonde like all the little girls that went missing, so for me, there is a latent thought that it really could have been me who was snatched.

“If I had been walking down the road that day, it could have been me who was never seen again,” Vorster said.

She said that when Fiona’s disappearance made the news, it had shocked her family.

“I remember being in front of the TV with my family and we were all so shaken. I remember Fiona, and every now and again I sit and wonder what happened to her and the other girls, and the fact that the families have never had any closure. It is so horrible,” she said.

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