‘Kidnapped’ East London man Schalk Van der Merwe withdraws charge, suspect released

Schalk van der Merwe.

A kidnapping case took an unexpected twist this week when the charge was withdrawn and the suspect was released from custody.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Luxolo Tyali  told DispatchLIVE on Tuesday that the alleged victim, East London businessman Schalk Van der Merwe, 32, had withdrawn the case.

The suspect, 30, was due to appear in the Butterworth magistrate’s court on Monday.

“The complainant on the matter gave a withdrawal statement. So the case was not enrolled,” said Tyali. It remained unclear what led to Van der Merwe’s decision not to continue with the case.

Asked to shed some light on what might have prompted the businessman to change his mind, Tyali said: “It is he who can tell you. An adult complainant can withdraw a case without providing reasons.”

When approached by DispatchLIVE, Van der Merwe’s wife, Alida van der Merwe, said: “Where did you get that information? ”

After it was put to her that the NPA had confirmed the new turn of events, she promised her husband would be in touch “shortly”.

Contacting the businessman directly has been a challenge because he was apparently left without a cellphone after the alleged kidnapping.

Last week, police confirmed that the businessman was kidnapped from his workshop in Msobomvu, Butterworth, on Thursday afternoon. He was allegedly forced into the back of his white Audi A3 by a group of armed men in full view of his mother and staff.

The car was found abandoned in bushes near Ngqamakhwe on Friday.

Police finally found Van der Merwe walking alone in the streets of Mtebele location, Ngqamakhwe, near Butterworth​ on Saturday afternoon. The suspect was then taken in for questioning.

On Sunday, Eastern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci  confirmed that the suspect had been charged after being linked to the incident.

The businessman had not responded by print deadline on Tuesday despite his wife’s promise.

By Vuyolwethu Sangotsha

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