The mother of a 13-year-old Durban girl who went missing with a 34-year-old neighbour on Tuesday said the family was still in shock.
“It is so hard. We really don’t know what happened. We have to be there for my daughter, but we have to slowly start from the beginning to find out what happened. We haven’t got to talking about it because we are still shocked,” she told TimesLIVE.
She said the child was traumatised by the ordeal and upset that her photograph was widely circulated on social media.
The neighbour was at home with his family on Wednesday morning, hours after the private security company Reaction Unit SA (Rusa) found him with the teenager in Richards Bay after a tip-off from residents.
“We were friends because we are close neighbours, but I don’t know why she went with him. I first have to make sure she is OK. She has to go for counselling,” the mother said.
She said she planned to lay a criminal charge against the man on Wednesday morning.
When the child’s parents realised their daughter was missing from their home in Cornubia, north of Durban, on Tuesday morning, they went to the neighbour’s house for help, only to discover that the 34-year-old father of four had also disappeared.
A relative had seen the child, who turned 13 on Tuesday, get into a vehicle with the man in Isipingo, south of Durban.
Rusa said the pair were found in Richards Bay on the north coast just before midnight.
“Reaction officers travelled 156km from the Rusa headquarters to Corrania Corner in Brackenham in Richards Bay after receiving several tip-offs from residents in the area regarding the missing persons.
“The officers located a home and found them in the company of extended family. According to the man, he left his home to spend the child’s birthday with his family after she complained about verbal abuse from her parents. The child turned 13 on Tuesday and he said he intended spoiling her on her birthday and wanted to look for work in the same area during the week,” said Rusa director Prem Balram.
The grade 7 pupil and the man were transported back to Durban.
The man is the father of four children aged between one month and seven years.