Police get lead on girl missing for 20 years
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Florencia Langenhoven went missing almost 20 years ago, but each year her family celebrates her birthday, hoping that she is still alive and will return home to them.
And at last their prayers could be answered as police have been given fresh information on her whereabouts.
A new lead suggests Florencia, now 22, is still alive and may be living in Newlands.
Standing outside her Elsies River home, her mother, Cathy Langenhoven, watches over her grandchildren playing outside. It is a scenario much like that on the day her youngest daughter disappeared.
Florencia, five, was playing in front her home when she disappeared on December 5, 1993. After weeks of searching, the Langenhovens’ neighbour, Aubrey Hendricks, admitted to kidnapping the little girl.
Cathy said that despite constant attempts to get Hendricks to reveal her daughter’s whereabouts, he brushed her off and said: “I will tell you in court.”
Hendricks was eventually convicted of kidnapping and served a 10-year sentence, but to this day has not revealed anything substantial.
Cathy said Hendricks taunted her several times about her daughter’s whereabouts while he was in prison. He told Cathy her child had been sold to a man in Grabouw for R25 000 and several other stories, none of which could be confirmed.
Her family’s resolve has been tested over the past 17 years with false leads and searches, but now they may be able to see Florencia again.
“Two months ago a neighbour said she knew where Florencia was and even gave an address. The information seemed genuine and my husband Cyril went to the Ravensmead police station to report the new information. But he was turned away and we were left completely distraught.”
Now two officers at the police station are being investigated in connection with a charge of unprofessional behaviour over the Langenhovens’ claim that they were turned away.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander confirmed the investigation. He said they had followed up the tip-off, but had no concrete information at this stage.
The family chose not to go to the address themselves after their source warned that Florencia might be moved if they did.
Last month, Florencia’s eldest sister, Carmen, said she had received an anonymous cellphone call from a man claiming her sister was dead and they would never find her.
Instead of being dismayed by the call, the family said it almost certainly proved Florencia was alive.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how she looks and what she’s doing or I talk about how she looks,” said Cathy, glancing at the picture of her lost daughter in the dining room.
“After all we’ve been through, it’s like we’re so close to seeing her. She’s out there and we won’t stop until we find her.”
Carmen Langenhoven, 31, broke down when describing her memories of her sister.
“I was the one looking after her while our parents were at work and we were very close.
“I used to teach her numbers and words; she was a very bright girl. To this day, I keep wondering what she would’ve become. If she would have gone to university or college and what her life was like without us.”
Carmen said her own 10-year-old daughter Magnolia bore a striking resemblance to Florencia.
Carmen’s brother, Jerome, 29, said he wanted his five-year-old daughter Cassody to meet her aunt.
“It doesn’t matter what we’ve been through or how we’ve changed, we just want to be a family again. We will always be here waiting for Florencia to come home to us, where she belongs.”