Six year-old kidnap victim Amy-Leigh de Jager [L-R], was found early Tuesday after being abandoned on a street corner in Johannesburg South Africa after 19 hours in captivity
The six-year-old daughter of a South African power boat champion who was ripped from her mother’s arms outside a school has been found safe after her kidnappers dumped her on a street corner in the middle of the night.
Amy-Leigh de Jager, daughter of Wynand de Jager, was found in tears by a couple in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 19 hours after being taken in front of her distraught mother in Johannesburg.
She was reunited with her ‘heartbroken’ family who described the ordeal as the ‘longest 19 hours of our lives’, but added they are relieved she is safe.
The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of R2 million [$132,942], to return Amy to her distraught parent, however authorities in SA said, none of the ransom money the kidnappers had been demanding was paid. The gang likely panicked after seeing the amount of publicity the case generated, police said
‘She has been found. The people dropped her off in the streets and a woman and her man heard her crying and rushed her to the police station.
It was about 2am this morning,’ Amy-Leigh’s aunt, Louise Horn, said.
‘Everything is okay, she wasn’t harmed. She also undergone tests at the hospital, so everything is okay. The family is still very heartbroken, but we are just thankful that she is alive.
‘It was the longest 19 hours of our families’ lives and we are really glad she is back with us.’
The first thing Amy-Leigh did after being returned was to ask for a burger and to see her brother – five-year-old Jayden, Louise said.
‘Angeline is traumatized as is Wynand and it is going to be a long road of recovery for all of them,’ she added.
Police spokesman Brig Vishnu Naidoo ‘Amy was found this morning and she is undergoing a medical examination at a local hospital.
‘The investigation into her disappearance and sudden reappearance is ongoing. It is our appeal that this investigation be allowed to take its course.’
Amy-Leigh was grabbed outside a primary school on the outskirts of Johannesburg at around 7.40am Monday morning.
The victim’s mother, Angeline de Jager, suffered a shoulder injury as she battled in vain to keep hold of her screaming daughter as the four-person gang struck.
Amy-Leigh’s father, F1 powerboat racer Wynand de Jager, later received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding two million rand [$132,942]. It was not revealed what the gang threatened if the money was not forthcoming.
Wynand de Jager is the son of one of South Africa’s most famous F1 Grand Prix powerboat racers, Elzane De Jager who died in 2011.
The youngster had been outside the gates of Kollegepark Primary School in Vanderbijlpark with her mother and five-year-old brother when the gang swooped in a 4×4 Toyota Fortune.
Video footage shows the moments leading up to the incident, as police continued their desperate search through the night for Amy-Leigh.
Witness Annemarie Pienaar, who had just dropped her son off and walked him to class, told Vaal Weekblad newspaper that she was five yards from Amy-Leigh’s car when she witnessed the kidnap right in front of her.
She said: ‘I heard a woman screaming, and when I looked up I saw a white Toyota Fortuner and just saw how the mother fell on the ground and saw how the vehicle pulled away or bumped her.
‘I could not see the men or, at that stage, a registration number and the windows were blacked out.
The kidnappers contacted Wynand de Jager [right] after his daughter Amy Leigh [left] abduction, demanding he pay a ransom of nearly $133,000 for her safer return
‘I at first thought it was the mother’s vehicle that was stolen but was then told that they had grabbed the child from her and bundled her into the Fortuner and then drover her away.’
She had been wearing a pink dress with black leggings when she was taken and Captain Kay Makhubele from the South African Police Service has urged anyone with information to come forward.
Amy-Leigh’s grandfather Martin Brouwers said that the family has left everything to police negotiators and his daughter Angeline was still in shock following the incident.
‘My daughter was dropping off the kids off at school and when the two little ones climbed out, Angeline walked around the side to take Amy-Leigh out and a guy just bumped little Jayden out the way and grabbed Amy-Leigh, jumped into the car and they started flying off.
‘Angeline tried to hold onto the car and she couldn’t hold on and got seriously hurt.’
Amy-Leigh’s aunt Louise Horn said Jayden was ‘traumatized’ by the incident.
‘Her mother and father are at the police station with the hostage negotiators and are waiting in case the captors call again but are in a dark place are not holding up well as you can imagine.’
A source close to the family said: ‘You can only imagine what is going through the minds of her mother and father but this was clearly not a random attack and this had been planned.
‘The police have been brilliant and are doing all that they can do get her back home safe but it is just terrifying. Amy-Leigh is six and defenseless. Her mum and dad are having nightmares.’
Wendy Pascoe, a private investigator who specializes in tracing missing children, was called in along with hostage negotiators and tracing teams and the SA Crime Intelligence Unit.
‘When the call came through I began assisting at the police station as we do with cases of missing children but we have handed it over now to hostage negotiators, Pascoe said.
‘This is not something we usually see with kidnappings and what is odd is that the vehicle wasn’t taken but the child was as usually the child is taken by mistake when a car is hijacked.
‘What is also very curious is that the abductors seem to have targeted Amy-Leigh as they paid no attention to the other children which tells us that they were waiting for her,’ she said.
Member for the School Governing Body Andries Pienaar said: ‘We are all very shocked by what happened but you can clearly see this was a well-planned abduction of a child from her mother.’
A huge manhunt had been launched and police asked for anyone with any information that could help recover Amy-Leigh safe and well to contact the South African Police Service.
After Amy was returned Tuesday, police said the investigations into her abduction and return continue unabated.