'A parent's nightmare': Pleas for help after young couple goes missing in Stellenbosch

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Leila Lees, 18, and Ethan Kirkland, 19.
Leila Lees, 18, and Ethan Kirkland, 19.
  • The search is on for a Stellenbosch young couple, Leila Lees, 18, and Ethan Kirkland, 19, who were reported missing this weekend.
  • The couple mysteriously disappeared on Friday and was last seen just before midnight.
  • Kirkland's father, Paul Midlane, appealed to the public for help.

Friends and family of Stellenbosch couple, Ethan Kirkland, 19, and Leila Lees, 18, are frantically searching for them after they went missing on Friday.

The couple was last seen driving in Kirkland's maroon Subaru Forester, which has a CA 280247 registration number, according to police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut.

Their close friend, Rocco Elijah, said they had footage of the vehicle in an around Stellenbosch. It was last seen on security camera footage captured in Bosman Street at 23:45.

It appeared that they dropped "off the radar" after that, he added.

"But honestly, we have no clue or what happened to them. We are trying to ascertain the route they took and narrow it down to specific areas."

READ | Two men arrested for kidnapping and murdering North West couple, body parts of woman missing

Elijah described the couple as warm and caring.

"They are young and very energetic fun people and [are] always smiling and [have] very bubbly personalities. I only met Ethan around February or March this year when he moved into my building. I met Leila this year, and have known her family since October 2021."

He said he spent much of his time with the couple.

"I saw Ethan every day and Leila every other day. I would go out with them for coffee."

Elijah pointed out that there weren't any safety issues in Stellenbosch:

You avoid certain areas and streets. As far as I know, they didn't go anywhere dodgy.

He appealed to the public to continue searching for the couple.

"Honestly, the public must just keep doing what they are doing. The support has been completely massive. We have two WhatsApp groups with over 500 people doing everything they can to find them."

Kirkland's father, Paul Midlane, also appealed for help.

He said they were furiously chasing "any leads that we can".

"The car has not been seen since 23:45 on Friday and we are looking everywhere that we can. If anyone has seen either the car or the people, please can you contact the police urgently."

Midlane said he was deeply worried about the safety of the couple.

"All I can say is that you never think it can happen to you. It always happens to someone else in the news, and now you become the person in the news."

He added:

I would never wish this upon anyone. It is every parent's nightmare that has materialised.

According to Midlane, the couple was reported missing on Saturday morning.

"Leila did not show up for work. So, since yesterday, we have been trying to locate them and [have been] searching in different areas and filed the police report.

"It took the police a while, but they are starting to show their commitment. There [were] people working late on a Sunday night, going through every CCTV camera in Stellenbosch but at the moment, it looks like the car disappeared."

Midlane also appealed to authorities in Cape Town to come to his aid. 

"Right now, I'm sitting with four police officers who are taking statements and trying their best. But I am pleading with the City of Cape Town to mobilise resources. "We need helicopters and just more boots on the ground. The more time passes, the worse it becomes. I am pleading with them to please hop on board."

Midlane described Kirkland as a wonderful son.

"He is a great human being. He is wonderful. We have a WhatsApp group full of 500 people, and then we had to open a second group because that is how much people care. Everyone is looking and it is just the biggest mystery ever."

Anyone who has information can contact Stellenbosch police on 021 809 5000.

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