Cape Town - A Darling teenager, alleged to have been abducted by a West Coast municipal official, has been safely returned home after a three-day ordeal that her parents described as their “worst nightmare”.

The official has been arrested and is in police custody.

Her parents, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their 15-year-old daughter, told the Cape Argus on Sunday that the 43-year-old suspect, had apparently talked “their little girl” into eloping with him.

The teenager has not yet spoken to her family about what happened during the three days she spent with the man.

“We haven’t slept since Thursday,” the father said.

“It’s the worst feeling ever. I’m just so relieved and happy that my daughter is safely back at home.”

The girl had gone missing on Ascension Day when both her parents were at work, he said.

“He waited until the religious holiday when the children were at home and both my wife and I were at work, to take her from us,” the 40-year-old father said.

The parents opened a case of statutory rape against the man about a month ago.

“After learning that he was in a relationship with our daughter, we opened a case in Darling where we live, but the Child Protection Unit in Vredenburg investigated the case.”

The situation came to a head last week with their daughter’s disappearance.

“We drove up and down, searching for our daughter, but she was nowhere to be found.

“We received an SMS on Friday, telling us to withdraw the charges and only then our daughter would return,” the father said.

Western Cape police on Sunday confirmed that a suspect had been arrested.

“The suspect in a Darling rape and kidnapping case was arrested on Saturday in Moorreesburg at about 9.25pm,” police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said. “The 15-year-old victim was found with him.”

Van Wyk said the teen had been reunited with her parents.

“The suspect is detained and is due to appear in court soon,” he said.

The girl’s father said the suspect lived on the same street.

“We know him well, we grew up together. It’s just amazing that it’s the people you know who would do such a thing,” he said.

The police were believed to have traced the suspect via cellphone.

The Darling police along with the child protection unit in Vredenburg dropped her about an hour after they were found,” the father said.

She had a bruise on her right cheek and a split lip, he said.

It appears they were on foot the entire time, on the road with no money. She’s exhausted and we’re letting her sleep.

“We haven’t spoken to her yet, but will do that soon. We need to let her understand that she was used by this man.”

Henry Prins, the municipal manager of the West Coast district municipality in Moorreesburg, on Sunday confirmed that an investigation had been launched after the official in question failed to report for duty for the past three weeks.

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Cape Argus