Amy'Leigh kidnapped as 'bargaining tool' in drug trafficking debt
Online Afrikaans weekly Vrye Weekblad reported on Friday that a teacher arrested following the kidnapping this week of six-year-old Amy'Leigh de Jager allegedly owed money to an organised crime syndicate involved in drug trafficking and robbery.
The child was apparently used as a bargaining tool because the teacher and one other suspect in the case had alleged drug debts of hundreds of thousands of rands.
Police have arrested three suspects in connection with the abduction – among them a teacher employed at Amy'Leigh's Vanderbijlpark primary school.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Vanderbijlpark magistrate's court on Monday - a week after four men grabbed the grade R pupil from her mother, Angeline de Jager, outside Laerskool Kollegepark. She was released unharmed in the early hours of Tuesday.
The 27-year-old teacher, whose name is known but cannot be revealed until she has appeared in court, and Angeline can be seen together on several pictures on Facebook.
"Much love for you," read a comment from Angeline on one of the pictures on the teacher's profile.
Vrye Weekblad, which spoke to sources close to the investigation, reported that the alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping was a Nigerian who also managed the ransom negotiations with Amy'Leigh's parents.
"The syndicate consists of a mixture of South Africans and foreigners. The members are not only operating in Vanderbijlpark, but also in Johannesburg and on the East Rand," the website reported.
Amy'Leigh's grandfather, Martin Brouwer, spoke to TimesLIVE about how the kidnapping had affected their family. He expressed shock at the identity of the arrested suspects, saying it hit "close to home".
"I am very relieved that arrests were made. Unfortunately, the people arrested, you would never ever think that they would do something like this," he said.
"I cannot believe that a schoolteacher has been involved in this. I am absolutely distraught and the family is shocked. You have your children at a school and trust that they are looked after, but instead they are given to the vultures."
Brouwer praised the dedication of the police team that searched for Amy'Leigh, saying they relied on energy bars and energy drinks to get through the night.
He spoke of the family's relief at her safe return, including that of her five-year-old brother, Jayden, who had been left in the care of his aunt while his parents were with the police. He had kept asking where Amy'Leigh was.
"He and his sister are very close, it's a bond that no one can break. He is the happiest child that his sister is back."
Of Amy'Leigh, he said: "She is doing okay, battling to sleep, but okay."