Video by Tracey Adams
Vigilant neighbourhood watch members described how they spotted and helped missing mother Shireen Essop, 32, who relayed a harrowing tale of abduction and being held hostage in Khayelitsha.
A source said a ransom was paid and the police confirmed they were investigating the matter.
Essop was spotted in Govan Mbeki Road on Friday at midnight, after she was dumped on the side of the road by her alleged kidnappers.
She was last seen on May 23, driving down Weltevreden Road in a white Toyota. Her car was recovered in Philippi hours later but there was no sign of Essop.
The Klipfontein Mission Station Neighbourhood Watch found a shivering and distraught Essop trying to seek help from the police who were buying coffee at the BP petrol station.
Rachel Stemmet of the neighbourhood watch said they were attending to another woman, when they overheard Essop speaking to a police officer.
“They didn’t want to help her, they ignored her, then we went to her and that’s when one of our members said she is the missing Shireen, the lady whose picture everyone was sharing.
“I went to her and asked her and she said ‘yes’. She started to cry and I held her against my chest, she told me they hurt her really bad. I told her not to worry, she’s safe now,” Stemmet said.
She said Essop asked to use a cellphone to call her family.
While waiting for her family to arrive, another member Dean Esau, said Essop told the group she was held hostage in Khayelitsha.
She was placed in a car and dropped off on Govan Mbeki Road.
“(She said) they gave her money and told her to walk towards the BP garage, they told her that they were letting her go because she wasn’t the intended person.
“We are just so glad that at that time we were there, we are also thankful that she is safe.”
Half an hour later, two vehicles arrived, presumably her family, at the petrol station and took Essop away.
Rochelle Ackerman, who is also part of the neighbourhood watch that has been operational for a month, said she was relieved when Essop’s family showed up.
“When we first saw her she walked like a zombie, you could see she was traumatised, but by the time she left, she thanked us .”
Weekend Argus tried reaching out to the family for comment but there was no response. On Saturday, the family issued a brief statement confirming she was found and thanked those who helped to locate her.
“Words alone cannot express our heartfelt appreciation for being in your thoughts and in your hearts during these dark hours,” said the statement.
“Your support and continuous prayers have given us the strength to remain positive and hopeful that the Almighty will guide her safely back home to us.”
The family has asked for privacy.
Western Cape MEC of Community Safety and Policing Oversight Reagen Allen thanked the neighbourhood watch for helping reunite Essop with her family.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said details of the matter remained the subject of an investigation. No arrests have been made.