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Cape Town - Mitchells Plain is on a knife-edge, its panicked residents searching frantically for missing four-year-old Shaskia Michaels and silently asking each other how this could have happened again. And daring not to think the worst - that a monster who preys on little children walks among them.
Two houses side by side in Munich Street in Freedom Park. Two young children just vanished. Last October it was five-year-old Kauthar Bobbs. On Thursday it was Shaskia.
“Kauthar grew up in front us, and when she disappeared it was like a member of our family was taken,” Shaskia’s devastated grandmother, Roslyn Faroa, said last night. “It was hard on us all. I tried not to think about how easily Shaskia could have been the one missing, but now that nightmare is a reality.”
As the search for the missing toddler enters its third day on Saturday, fear, disbelief and anguish coats every pore of this sprawling working-class area built on the sands of the False Bay coast. Memories and mention of the infamous Station Strangler killings from the 1980s and ’90s are never too far away.
On Friday police said they are searching for a man from Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, who they believe can help them with their investigations. The man, whose name is known to Weekend Argus, is widely known by residents, who have said it is unusual for him not be around. However, they had not seen him since Shaskia went missing.
Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut appealed to the community to keep searching for any sign of the child.
Police ground patrol and helicopters, as well as neighbourhood watch volunteers, have been combing the area since Thursday afternoon, but had not turned up any sign of the missing child by the time of going to press last night. A police dog unit joined the search yesterday and a helicopter searched the Wolfgat Nature Reserve near Tafelsig.
The air in Freedom Park is thick with despair and conspiracy theories. And through it all the families of Shaskia and Kauthar cling to hope. “It’s been almost a year now and we still haven’t found Kauthar.”
“I pray that both of them will be found soon,” Faroa said.
“Words can’t explain how we feel. Her mother Anthea has taken it very badly. We’re on edge all the time, waiting for any news.
“When we see the police we don’t know if we should be happy because they will tell us they found her, or scared that they’ve found her dead.”
Nazley Bobbs, grandmother of missing Kauthar, has been supporting Shaskia’s family.
No one could have imagined this nightmare.
“Nazley helped raise Shaskia when she was a baby and knows exactly what we are going through,” Faroa added.
The coincidence is almost all anyone can talk about.
“It’s too strange for two girls who live next to each other to disappear like this,” resident Nadia Brandt ventures. “Someone must have taken them, and it has to be someone from the area, or who knows it well.
“None of our children are safe now,” she said.
Lynn Phillips, spokeswoman for the community policing forum, said they followed up several leads which took them to Heinz Park, also in Mitchells Plain, but that had proved to be a dead-end.
“We’ve conducted door-to-door searches and posted flyers… We’ll continue the search until we find Shaskia.”
- Anyone with information can call Warrant Officer Charles Julies on 079 894 1548, Crime Stop on 0860 01011 or SMS the Crime Line on 32211.