Dangers of social media: Suspect initially implicated in Joshlin Smith’s disappearance via social media now in “safe space”

Joshlin Smith has been missing since Monday, February 19. Picture: Supplied

Joshlin Smith has been missing since Monday, February 19. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 12, 2024


Since the disappearance of six-year-old Joshlin Smith from Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape, police and the local mayor have continuously asked those searching and social media users not to spread misinformation.

It has been 22 days since the Grade 1 learner from Diazville disappeared without a trace on February 19, just after 5pm.

As residents and members from communities across Cape Town descended on the small town in search of the girl, social media users were allowed to follow all details as it unfolded, social media users were going Live throughout.

As such, concern and desperation grew and as the local police seemed to have dropped the ball during their investigation, members of the public started doing their own investigation, hosting interviews, and asking questions about Joshlin’s disappearance.

Jacquen Appolis, Steven van Rhyn, Raquel “Kelly” Chantel Smith and Phumza Sigaqa appeared in the Vredenburg Magistrate Court. Photo: Patrick Louw/Independent Newspapers

However, one person who was initially implicated in Joshlin’s disappearance had his life turned upside down.

He was forcibly removed from his place of business.

The 34-year-old man who started a local business in the area is now in a place of safety.

A criminal case was being investigated, Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen said.

MEC Reagen Allen.

“I can confirm that a case has been registered in terms of a 34-year-old man who currently lost his entire business. His car wash is no longer in existence. He kick-started that business in 2011,” Allen said.

“He was removed from the premises where he worked because false information was spread. The matter is being investigated. We would never want any persons ultimately conduct investigations in that particular way.”

He said investigators have footage of the incident in their possession.

“I can confirm he is in a safe location provided jointly by police and the municipality,” Allen said.

Hundreds turned outside the Vredenburg Magistrate's Court baying for blood of those involved in the disappearance of Joshlin Smith. Photo: Kim Kay/IOL

Four people including Joshlin’s mother, Kelly Smith, her boyfriend Jacquen Appollis, Stevano van Rhyn, and alleged sangoma Phumza Sigaqa appeared in the Vredenberg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, March 7.

The quartet faces charges of trafficking in persons and kidnapping. They have officially applied for legal aid.

On Tuesday, March 5, a source revealed to IOL that a suspect had been arrested after a confession. The suspect is understood to have told police that Joshlin was sold to a woman for around R20,000.

The suspect, who is understood to be close to Joshlin, is one of the four arrested.

At the time of Joshlin’s disappearance, Smith told police that when she had returned home after being out for the day, she had looked for the child but could not find her.

She later got hold of her boyfriend, Appollis, who was supposed to look after Joshlin, but he could not account for her whereabouts.

Joshlin was last seen wearing a light blue T-shirt and light blue denim shorts. She also has a birthmark located on her left arm.

The group is expected back in court on Wednesday, March 13.