The family of missing Manenberg mom Shireen Essop reportedly paid a ransom for her release, while she told the neighbourhood watch members who assisted her that she was not the intended victim of the kidnappers.
Shireen, 32, was reunited with her family over the weekend after being missing for three weeks, and told the members who found her in Philippi that she had been held hostage in Khayelitsha.
While her family issued a short statement confirming she had been found, there have been public calls for Shireen to share details of her ordeal, which sparked widespread fear and concern in Cape Town.
Her husband Hamied Essop told the Daily Voice another media statement would be released “in due course”.
Vanessa Adriaanse of the Manenberg Community Police Forum says they are happy that Shireen has been found but says many questions linger.
Vanessa says the kidnapping could be indirectly linked to the tragic death of Abongile Mafalala, 31, who was killed during a mob justice attack in Parkwood a week later, on 31 May, following false claims that the Bolt driver tried to kidnap two girls.
"We are happy that she is safe and we understand and respect that the family needs space and time as her well being is important,” says Adriaanse.
“However the community is not being nosy. They must realise that this community stood still and in solidarity with them and gathered in their hundreds to pray for her safe return.
“There are too many questions and the Essop case caused hysteria in all our communities and we saw many fake reports of kidnappers.
“There was mob justice because people were in a panic and now a man is dead and it all started with this case.”
The Klipfontein Neighbourhood Watch at the Klipfontein Mission Station found Shireen at around midnight on Friday night
Vigilant members say they spotted the mom of one on Govan Mbeki Road after she was left on the side of the road by her captors.
Shireen, who works as a manager at Dairy Mart in Philippi, was abducted on 23 May after leaving work in her white Toyota Quest along Varkensvlei Road. Her car was recovered in Philippi hours later.
The Klipfontein Mission Station neighbourhood watch says they found a shivering and distraught Shireen trying to seek help from police who were buying coffee at the BP station.
Member Rachel Stemmet said they were attending to another woman when they overheard Shireen speaking to a police officer, reports the Weekend Argus.
“They didn’t want to help her, they ignored her, then we went to her and that’s when one of our members said she is the missing Shireen, the lady whose picture everyone was sharing.
“I went to her and asked her and she said yes. She started to cry and I held her against my chest, she told me they hurt her really bad. I told her to not worry, she’s safe now.”
Rachel said Shireen asked to use a cellphone to call her family.
While waiting for her family to arrive, she told them she was held hostage in Khayelitsha.
She was placed in a car and dropped off on Govan Mbeki road.
“(She said) they gave her money and told her to walk towards the BP garage, they told her that they were letting her go because she wasn’t the intended person,” says member Dean Esau.
Half an hour later, two vehicles arrived at the petrol station and took her away.
Member Rochelle Ackerman added: “When we first saw her she walked like a zombie, you could see she was traumatised, but by the time she left, she thanked us and got into the car.”
On Saturday, the family thanked those who had helped find Shireen.
“Words alone cannot express our heartfelt appreciation for being in your thoughts and in your hearts during these dark hours,” read the statement.
“Your support and continuous prayers have given us the strength to remain positive and hopeful that the Almighty will guide her safely back home to us.”
A source told Weekend Argus that a ransom was paid to the kidnappers, who are yet to be arrested.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said the investigation was ongoing with no arrests yet.