Cape Town - The Langenhoven family has been chasing leads on their missing daughter Florencia for more than 20 years after a neighbour kidnapped her and sold her to an unknown man in Grabouw.
Earlier this year, the family was dealt a further blow when a woman they hoped was their daughter rejected their approaches.
Florencia, 5, was playing in front of her Elsies River home when she disappeared on December 5, 1993. After weeks of searching, the Langenhoven’s neighbour, Aubrey Hendricks, admitted to kidnapping the little girl.
He claimed he sold Florencia for R25 000 to a man in Grabouw, known only as Sipho.
Hendricks was convicted of kidnapping, and served 10 years behind bars – but never revealed the whereabouts of the little girl.
In the years that followed, Florencia’s family chased many leads, but without success.
In 2011 they finally believed they had a solid lead when a neighbour gave them a possible address for Florencia. They reported it to the police, but said they were turned away, and left distraught.
Then earlier this year the family found a woman who matched the description of their missing daughter.
Cyril Langenhoven, Florencia’s father, said they met the woman in May.
“Some information led us to Uitsig and then to Delft where the woman lived. She resembled Florencia but at the same time there were things that didn’t fit. It’s been 20 years so she would definitely have changed. We pressed her for answers but she told us we weren’t the only family who thought she was their missing daughter.”
The woman said she would get back to the family and would be willing to do a DNA test, but had not contacted them since.
“It’s hard to accept that she might not come back after 20 years of searching, but life has to move on,” said Langenhoven, his baby granddaughter Bethany, six months, tugging on his dreadlocks.
“My family has grown and I have a few more grandchildren. They all look a lot like Florencia, especially Bethany. Sometimes we sit and talk and the memories just come flooding back – so many questions that haunt us each day.
“The answers may never come. What happened was in our hands, but if she’s out there we just want her to know that whatever happened she can come to us anytime she wants. This is her home and this is where she belongs.”
The family thinks of Florencia every time they hear news of a missing child.
“After Florencia, children started disappearing everywhere, like Matthew Ohlsson. It was terrifying and it felt as if the nightmare was repeating itself. But we met some of the families, like Matthew’s mother, Michelle, and bonded over our losses. We became stronger by talking, sharing our experience and leaning on one another.”
Langenhoven said he had even forgiven Hendricks for kidnapping his daughter.
During his time in prison, Hendricks repeatedly taunted Florencia’s mother, Cathy, with hints about her daughter’s whereabouts. He offered several stories, none of which could be confirmed.
“I can’t hold on to the hate,” said Langenhoven. “In the end it would only destroy me. How can I not grant forgiveness and expect the Lord not to forgive me for my actions when I go to heaven?”
Then he added: “I may have forgiven him, but I will never forget.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said police had continued to follow up leads in conjunction with the family, since Florencia disappeared.
“During our investigation into her disappearance all leads have been pursued, without any success thus far,” he said.