Cape Town - The family of Shireen Essop, who are desperate for her safe return, have requested members of the public to refrain from sharing unverified information, including that she has been found, without their confirmation.
Essop’s whereabouts were last known at 2pm on Monday when she was driving a white Toyota on Weltevreden Road near Philippi after work.
She was last seen wearing black pants and a mustard-coloured top.
Essop is of medium build and about 1.65m tall.
Her sister-in-law Ayesha Essop confirmed to the Cape Times that the 32-year-old was heading home at the time she went missing.
The vehicle was later traced and found abandoned.
While it was recovered in Philippi, there was no sign of the young mother from Manenberg.
“We are requesting that the family is given privacy during this time as the investigation is ongoing. It is only the family and police that will announce when she has been found and it is not true that the vehicle was recovered in Khayelitsha.
“While we appreciate the support and people sharing in efforts to find her, we are requesting that people don’t spread fake news or anything not confirmed by police,” she said.
This is after several social media posts were shared on Tuesday morning claiming she had been found.
Police spokesperson Wesley Twigg confirmed that police were still searching for Essop and probing the circumstances leading to her disappearance.
Missing Children South Africa (MCSA), who has been assisting the family, said fake news can cause panic to an already distraught family.
“Any false rumours on social media causes a lot of trauma for the family. Even us, we only put out a flyer that someone has been found after the police confirm that to us. That is why in most cases we request families not to place their personal phone numbers on social media because that also sometimes leads to extortion cases, which has increased,” MCSA’s Bianca van Aswegen said.
She said with the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a spike in kidnapping, hijacking and human trafficking.
“Kidnappings happen for various reasons, including ransom, opportunistic, human trafficking, parental abductions. So it all depends on the type of kidnapping and circumstances leading to it. Both children and adults are targeted by these syndicates or groups. People usually hear that children must always be vigilant, but the same applies to adults. Nowhere is truly safe, adults are just as vulnerable and need to be alert in their physical surroundings,” said Van Aswegen.
She said the increase in criminal activities in South Africa possibly portrayed how people were desperate as many are unemployed.
“We have also seen an increase with online scams and how people are lured with fake job adverts for human trafficking.”