Jeanette van der Horst dies after 24-year reunion with family

Jeanette van der Horst, 54, passed away shortly after being reunited with her family after 24 years.

Jeanette van der Horst, 54, passed away shortly after being reunited with her family after 24 years.

Published May 28, 2024


Cape Town - An Eerste River woman who was miraculously reunited with her family after disappearing 24 years ago has died after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

The heartbroken sister of Jeanette van der Horst, 54, says she had just over a week to catch up with her younger sister before she died in Tygerberg Hospital last week.

Van der Horst made headlines two weeks ago when she was found by a team from the Pink Ladies missing persons organisation after her family had been searching for her for more than two decades.

At the time, Pink Ladies representative Nadiema Salie said they were called to Elsies River police station to help locate Van Der Horst’s family members after she was found roaming the streets.

They noticed she had a growth on her neck and was struggling to speak as they tried to trace her relatives. A flyer was later released and she was recognised by her niece, Samantha Lottering, which led to the reunion with her family.

Van der Horst’s older sister, Magrieta Lottering, 61, says on her arrival home the family was overjoyed but very concerned about the growth on her neck.

“We took her the very next day to the hospital here in Eerste River and we got a referral letter for Tygerberg Hospital.

“We were very happy that she came home and we had so many questions, but at that point the most important thing to do was get her medical attention.

“Last Thursday we had a date to see a doctor. We arrived and they assessed her and told us the growth was definitely cancerous and that it was already stage 4.

“While they were still attending to her she just passed away peacefully. I was so heartbroken.”

Lottering says she was left dumbstruck but felt at peace that her sister was reunited with her family before she died.

“I was in such shock because she just came home and then she died … We looked for her for so long but I think after the death of her son, Craig, she was never the same again.

“He had a birth defect on his head and he survived for six years before he died. When she came home she didn’t speak much about why she stayed away.

“I kept telling her, ‘but all the years you knew where my house was, why didn’t you just come home and be a mother to your other children’?

“But at the end of the day we are happy that she was found and that she was reunited with us before she died.

“If this had happened and she was still missing we may never have even known that she was dead.”

Lottering says the family are now appealing for help to lay her sister to rest.

“We never planned for this because for years we didn’t even know where she was or that she was sick. We are appealing for any help just to get her in the ground and to say our final goodbyes.”

If you would like to help, call Lottering on 064 094 5438.

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Cape Argus