The 6-year-old daughter of an F1 powerboat racer who was kidnapped from outside her South African school Monday has been found safe and unharmed.
Amy-Lee de Jager was torn from her mother’s arms by four men around 7:40 a.m. Monday as they rushed the screaming child into a white Toyota Fortuner and sped off, according to the UK newspaper Metro.
Her father, F1 powerboat racer Wynand de Jager, later received a ransom call asking for $2 million rand, or about $132,000, but the ransom was never paid and the young girl was later released early Tuesday morning as the publicity around the case grew.
“It was the longest 19 hours of our lives,” the young girl’s aunt Louise Horn told the The Times Live. “We are really glad she’s back with us.”
Amy-Lee de Jager had been with her mother, Angeline, and 5-year-old brother outside her Vanderbijlpark school Monday at the drop-off area when the kidnappers approached the family and grabbed her. Angeline tried to hold onto her daughter so fiercely she injured her shoulder, but the kidnappers were able to overpower her and take off with the girl.
Amy-Lee’s grandfather, Martin Brouwer, told Eyewitness News that the family had not paid any ransom when she was released just after 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. He said the kidnappers told Amy-Lee to run across the dark street to find her mother on the other side; however, when the young girl got across the road no one was there.
A man and woman heard the 6-year-old’s cries and brought her to a local police station.
Police spokesperson Brig Vishnu Naidoo confirmed to The Times Live that the girl had been found safe.
“Amy was found this morning and she is undergoing a medical examination at a local hospital. The investigation into her disappearance and sudden reappearance is ongoing,” he said. “It is our appeal that this investigation be allowed to take its course.”
While the family is “just thankful she is alive,” Horn said both her mother and father were traumatized by the incident.
“It’s going to be a long road of recovery for all of them,” she said.
The first thing Amy-Lee asked for after being reunited with her parents was “a burger and her brother,” Horn said.
Authorities believe the kidnappers may have decided to dump Amy-Lee after the case began getting massive attention in the media.
“Her photo was all over the internet and the news and we think they thought they were better off cutting their losses and ditching Amy-Lee,” a source told the Evening Standard.
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