Kidnapped girl case gets weirder
The case of a six-year-old girl brazenly snatched from her screaming mother's arms outside a school in South Africa last week has taken yet another bizarre turn.
Little Amy'Leigh de Jager made world headlines after she was found dumped unharmed outside a pub on a street corner 19 hours later.
A man and two women aged 27 and 40 have been arrested and were due to front court on Monday. They were remanded in custody with the case adjourned.
In a shock twist, it has emerged the 27-year-old is a teacher at Amy'Leigh's school and a "close friend" of her mother Angeline de Jager.
In another development, the arrested teacher's father has alleged his daughter "masterminded" the abduction to pay back money she owed to a "drug lord" in a bizarre WhatsApp voice message sent to South African media.
"I just wanted to tell you, so that you don't hear it from someone else - the mastermind behind the kidnapping of that little girl (Amy'Leigh) was my child. She organised the entire thing with the others, but she was the mastermind," he said in the message to News24.
"They locked them up (on Wednesday) night. I didn't know this, but she (uses) narcotics, and she needed money to pay the people (drug dealers). I just wanted to tell you so that you don't get a shock when you hear that it was my child.
"So, the news has been broken and now you know. Have a good day."
News24 said the message appeared to be a bizarre attempt by the suspect's father to insert himself into the story ahead of the official release of her name.
Witnesses say the schoolgirl was taken by four masked men who were laying in wait outside the gates of Kollegepark Primary School in Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg, as Ms de Jager dropped Amy'Leigh and her brother off at 7.40am last Monday.
The kidnappers reportedly shoved the boy out the way to get to his sister, dragging Amy'Leigh from her mother's arms before bundling her into a Toyota Fortuna and speeding off.
After initially demanding R2 million ($A190,000) as ransom, her kidnappers abandoned their plan and dropped Amy'Leigh off between 2am and 2.30am near The Shakespeare Inn hotel in Vanderbijlpark.
Luckily, she was spotted by a young couple as they were leaving the pub to walk home.
Hendrik Brandt, 25, and Savannah Kriel, 22 told news outlet Rapport the terrified child initially ran away when they tried to approach her.
"She said (the abductors) had dropped her off in the street while driving a white car with black stripes, and that it was as big as her mummy's car inside," Mr Brandt said.
"She said the men told her to go to a blue car parked on the street. They said her mummy was there, but she didn't see a blue car and then the men sped off."
The pair said they had seen reports a girl had been kidnapped and, when they saw the frightened little girl outside the bar, their first thought was that she could be Amy'Leigh.
"When I picked her up and she said she'd been stolen from her mum, I was paralysed with shock," Mr Brandt told Rapport.
He said he gave Amy'Leigh his jacket and piggybacked her 4km to the nearest police station, where Ms de Jager and her champion powerboat racer husband Wynand de Jager were waiting to hear news of their daughter.
Mr Bandt said on the walk to the station, the girl said she was anxious about returning a friend's bracelet, which she was supposed to have given back the morning she was abducted.
"I promised her that we would take her back to her mummy and that she would be able to return the bracelet," Mr Bandt said.
According to the publication, Heroult Street where Amy'Leigh was dumped is a "notoriously dangerous part of town" where drive-by shootings are a routine occurrence.
The revelation one of the alleged abductors works at Kollegepark Primary, where she reportedly taught Amy'Leigh's brother and is also one of Ms de Jager's best friends, has left the community reeling.
"Can you believe she would do something like this to my child?" the devastated mother wrote in a WhatsApp message sent to a friend and seen by Rapport.
On the teacher's Facebook page, the two women feature in several pictures together, calling each other by the nickname "heksie", which means "little witch" in Afrikaans.
According to News24, shortly after the kidnapping, the teacher allegedly sent a series of WhatsApp messages to parents saying there are "sickos out there" and asking for money for "flowers and a hamper" for Amy'Leigh's parents.
The teacher and the others who were arrested are expected to appear in the Vanderbijlpark Magistrate's Court on Monday.