How the Amy'Leigh 'kidnapping' plot was hatched

Tharina Human cries at the Vanderbijlpark magistrate's court on Thursday, September 19 2019.
Tharina Human cries at the Vanderbijlpark magistrate's court on Thursday, September 19 2019.
Image: Sunday Times/Alaister Russell

Tharina Human went as far as planning her own kidnapping or that of anyone close to her father to pay off Nigerians she owed money to, the Vanderbijlpark magistrate’s court heard on Thursday afternoon.

After lengthy arguments to get proceedings live-streamed, the state finally called its first witness to the stand in the kidnapping case of six-year-old Amy’Leigh de Jager.

Const Clayton Motloung started testifying in the formal bail application hearing of Human and her co-accused, Laetitia Nel and Pieter van Zyl.

Motloung, who has been in the police force for 10 years, is an investigating officer at the child protection unit.

He told the court that a female state witness would testify that she was present when the kidnapping was planned.

“It was four of them - the initial plan was to kidnap accused one [Human] by accused two [Nel] and accused three [Van Zyl] so that the family of accused one [Human] could come and bail her out.”

Motloung said Human then changed the plan and opted instead to kidnap someone in her family – someone very close to her father - with the idea of her brother paying the ransom for the release.

Throughout Motlaung's testimony, Human sat in the dock with her head hung low. She had a grim smile on her face and often shook her head at some parts of Motloung’s testimony.

When their kidnapping plans failed, the suspects met on September 1 and decided to kidnap six-year-old Amy’Leigh de Jager instead.

According to Motlaung, Human apparently told the group that there was a child in her class whose family was “very rich”.

Motloung testified that on the morning of September 2, Amy’Leigh was snatched from her mother Angeline’s arms and shoved into a white Toyota Fortuner.

An hour after the kidnapping, at about 9.17am, her father Wynand received a call from an unknown number.

“It was an African male on the other side of the call and he demanded a R2m ransom for the release of the child.”

Police traced the call to a location about 15km from Vanderbijlpark - towards the direction of Sebokeng. They still couldn’t find the Fortuner.

He said they managed to obtain phone records and the number used to phone the father. Wynand had also previously made contact with a cell number which they traced to a plot outside Vanderbijlpark.

Police arrived on the plot and found a woman who was closely related to Human.

“She told us three days before she received a call from the same number, the ransom phone number. That person portrayed himself as a principal of the child.”

It was found that the cellphone had been used by Nel in the past.

Police went to the house of Nel and found all three suspects present at the house – this was after 11pm that evening.

Nel handed the police two cellphones that she used, but the phone police were looking for was not there.

Motloung said when they arrived at the station after 1am on Tuesday; a couple had brought Amy’Leigh in.

He said new cellphone records led them back to the house of Nel. This was on the Wednesday.

“When we arrived there we asked her the same question we asked on Monday night. Accused 2 [Nel] informed us that she was involved in the commission of this offence. She informed us that it was not 'our idea', it was the idea of accused 1 [Human].”

She was arrested and later mentioned that Van Zyl, who lived in the same street as her, had also been part of the crime.

When police arrived at his house, there was an African male inside the house, but he fled, Motloung said.

Inside the house police recovered a firearm. Nel then led the police to the house of Human who was with her eight-year-old daughter at the time.

“She informed the police that she owed a Nigerian a lot of money. That Nigerian man told her that he could make a lot of money from her daughter. She needed money to bail out her daughter – that’s why she planned the kidnapping.”

All three were arrested and charged with kidnapping and extortion.  

The court adjourned for lunch.


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