One of grandmother Denise Bartlett’s two accused kidnappers is a 45-year-old former police officer in the dog unit.
Komani police spokeswoman Captain Namhla Mdleleni yesterday confirmed that “one” of the suspects lives behind the Bartlett’s house in Sterkstroom. Mdleleni would not say which of the two suspects it was.
However, Bartlett’s daughter, DA councillor Lindy Haggard, who lives with Bartlett in the Sterkstroom house, and Sterkstroom community leader Ntsikelelo Qibi, said they knew Andre Cornelius because he lived in the house behind the Bartletts.
“We share the same back wall, and sometimes we would go and chill there.
They can really play loud music, but last week the music was at an acceptable level. We did not think for a moment that she was close by.”
News of the former cop’s connection to the abduction and kidnapping emerged yesterday when two m en accused of abducting the 71-year-old Sterkstroom grandmother for five days and attempting to extract ransom of R3-million, appeared in the Sterkstroom Magistrate’s Court.
Cornelius, 45, a retired warrant officer in the K-9 unit, and co-accused, Raymond Fillis, 37, faced charges of kidnapping and house robbery. They were making their first appearance after being arrested on Friday.
Mdleleni said: “One of the suspects stays behind the victim’s house”. She confirmed that Bartlett was found in one of the suspects’ homes.
“The case was postponed to Monday for a formal bail application,” she said.
Bartlett was abducted by two armed men from her family home on Tuesday night.
On Thursday the kidnappers phoned the family and demanded R3-million in exchange of Bartlett.
On Friday, Komani police said they had rescued Bartlett who was locked in a house near Sterkstroom since Tuesday and arrested two suspects.
On Friday, Haggard told the Dispatch how the kidnappers called the family six times and demanded the money.
She said she finally agreed to “go to the bank” and draw the money which she would then drop off for the kidnappers.
While she was doing this, police who had been listening to the calls traced the kidnappers and found Denise Bartlett alive and well, but hungry.
They had also made the two arrests.
Yesterday, Haggard said she wanted the public to know that on the day she had gone to the bank to draw the money, she had been pretending that she had the vast sum.
“I went to the bank knowing that I did not have the money, but one guy was following me,” she said.
She emphasised that the family did not have this kind of money.