Cape Town - A Cape woman has spoken of what must be every mother’s nightmare – waiting for your child to return home late at night, and then hearing he has been hijacked by gunmen.
The family, from Somerset West, are living in fear because the hijackers are still at large.
But mercifully their ordeal ended without tragedy when the hijackers dumped the teenager in the dead of night, unharmed, outside the Gugulethu police station.
The Cape Argus agreed to keep the family’s identities confidential after listening to their story about the night they will never forget – Wednesday, April 23.
Somerset West police confirmed they were investigating the hijacking, which mirrored three similar hijackings in which all victims were approached in their driveways, between 9pm and 11pm, spokeswoman Suzan Jantjies said.
“My son was out playing cards at a nearby shopping centre. I’d been expecting him home between 9 and 9.30pm, and we have a very good system – he always phones me when he’s leaving to come home,” said the mother, 45.
“When he didn’t phone, I phoned him and he said: ‘Sorry, I forgot, but I can’t talk, I’m driving – I’ll see you now.’”
Minutes later, her son swung his car into the driveway of the family home.
“My husband had left the rubbish bin in the driveway, as it was collection day the following day, so he went outside to move it.”
But as her husband walked outside their son’s car reversed at speed down the driveway and sped off.
Another car, parked in the street, did a U-turn and sped after it.
“I found that very strange,” she said. “I phoned my son and he answered. He said, ‘I’m very close – I’ve just gone to get some pizza.’
“And then he put the phone down… I found that very strange. I knew then my son was in trouble.
“For a moment I thought maybe he had a friend with him, and that they’d had an argument.
“But I jumped in my car and raced down to Debonairs – in case he had been speaking in code and wanted me to come there.”
While she drove, her husband began phoning Helderberg Crime Watch.
She found no sign of her son at the pizza outlet, and returned home, where police were waiting.
Officers took their full statements.
“But eventually they said they could do nothing more for us. They’d alerted all the stations, and we just had to wait.” What followed were “the worst 70 minutes of my life” – the agonising torture of imagining where her son could be.
She never gave up, and was trying to deal with her son’s bank to try to trace any transactions on his account, when her landline rang. It was 10.50pm.
A voice said: “Mom, I’m at Gugulethu police station.”
She collapsed in a heap on the floor.
“I was obviously very traumatised from the outset, because I knew he had been taken.
“I was trying to go through the motions. But when I heard his voice, I collapsed, and then ran outside, and shouted to my husband: ‘They found him! They found him!’”
Her husband broke down too.
About 45 minutes later, the Gugulethu police delivered her son to the Somerset West police station.
Back at home, their son told how he had pulled into the driveway, and there had been a tap at his window.
A gun had been pointed at his head, and another gunman manned the passenger side.
They had instructed him simply: “Get out.”
He had obeyed, been pushed back into the passenger seat, and the hijackers had driven off with him.
The mother reflected: “We believe he must have been followed all the way home.”
She also said her son would not be able to recognise his attackers again.
Nevertheless, the hijackers had sped off.
When his cellphone had rung, they had told him to answer, and tell his mother he was going for pizza. They had told him to hang up and take his SIM card out of his phone.
At some point – the teenager thinks it was near Cape Town International Airport – they had stopped at an ATM.
The teen had given his hijackers his PIN code.
“He didn’t want to anger them. Earlier, they had asked what was in his bag, and he had forgotten he had his iPad inside. He told them later, when he remembered, so as not to anger them. They asked him to disconnect the cellular data as they knew they could be tracked by the iPad.
“So he co-operated fully,” she explained.
For the entire journey a gun was at his head, held by a man in the back seat.
But after the ATM withdrawal, her son had been shocked to hear them say, not far away: “Get out. Walk to the police station.”
Five minutes later he was speaking to his mother on the phone.
Asked how her son was recovering, she said: “We are all still traumatised. But my son is very calm. We have received counselling and we’re getting there, slowly…
“But we wanted to speak out, and warn others – even if we can prevent even just one other family from going through what we endured.”