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Relief after missing girl returns home

Cape Town - It was smiles and sighs of relief after the quick thinking and collaboration between police and community members saw the safe return of a nine-year-old girl who had gone missing.
Aqeela van der Westhuizen, from Hanover Park, went missing from her home on Tuesday and was found by her family, with the help of police, almost 4km away in Manenberg. Her sister Anthea Lewis said they went with the police after being told that she had been seen in Manenberg.
“When we got there she was scared and ran away because she thought she was in trouble, but when she saw that her family were with the police, she was fine.”
She said that since she was found, Aqeela had been very quiet and did not speak much about her ordeal.
“We still don’t know what happened to her, she won’t talk and the police also couldn’t get anything out of her. But fortunately the doctor who examined her said nothing happened to her physically, but something traumatised her.”
She said they were fortunate and grateful to have had the assistance of local residents.
“We went from court to court and house to house, and the police were also so helpful. The people were helpful and didn’t stop us from searching their homes. We actually saw that ‘your child is my child’.”
Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for MEC for Social Development Albert Fritz, said they could not say much on the matter as it crossed “risky legal areas”.
“The department has intervened in this matter, as social workers made contact with the family and girl yesterday. The case has been handed over to our funded child protection NGO partner, whose social workers will attend to it in line with the Children’s Act.”
Ebrahim Abrahams, chairperson of the Hanover Park Community Policing Forum, said a number of residents had helped with the search.
“There were about 20 to 30 people who came out to help with the search. Luckily Aqeela was found. This was just a case of negligence; she apparently got into a taxi and went to Manenberg.”
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut confirmed that the girl was found after an extensive search by police officers and residents.

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