Nineteen hours after Amy-Leigh de Jager was abducted from her Vanderbijlpark school, she was given R4 “to buy water” and dropped off in the dark streets of the town in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Amy-Leigh wandered the streets crying out for help.
Local resident Shawn Delport, who has been assisting the family and police with the search and rescue operation of the six-year-old since Monday, said she was dropped off at 2am outside on a street close to The Shakespeare Inn hotel in .
“Two people dropped her off and gave her two R2’s to buy her water.
“They told her that there was a car with her mother in waiting for her at the shop across the road.
“When she got out and saw that it wasn’t her mother, she started screaming,” Delport told TimesLIVE.
He said two people who were walking home from a pub close by, saw her screaming and came to her rescue.
Delport said the two, who did not own a car, walked about 4-kilometres with Amy-Leigh to the local police station – where her family was waiting.
“When she arrived at the police station she was very peaceful.
“I held her in my arms. She didn’t cry or anything, but she was very tired,” the father of two said.
Early on Tuesday morning, Amy-Leigh’s aunt, Louise Horn told TimesLIVE the little girl had undergone tests at the hospital and that she was unharmed.
Horn said the family was struggling to come to terms with the incident, but they were thankful that she was found alive.
According to Horn, no ransom was paid.
Several family members shared their relief at Amy-Leigh’s safe return on their social media pages.
Martino Brouwer said, “My little niece has just been returned to my sister Angeline de Jager. . .After a long day of being scared and alone without her parents or family, she is now safe.”
To Amy-Leigh’s mom and dad, Brouwer wrote: “I cannot imagine how relieved you and Wynand are. . .I love you guys and remain strong through the rest of the process.”
A Facebook page set up to coordinate updates about the search for Amy-Leigh, and to offer support to the family, shared a photograph of her mother sitting up through the night, “desperate” to hear how her daughter was.
Four men were reported to have grabbed the Grade R pupil from her mother Angeline at the Kollegepark primary school shortly before 8am on Monday.
They bundled her into a white Toyota Fortuner before speeding off.
The abduction spurred police to launch a province-wide manhunt, calling in hostage negotiators and tracing teams, augmented by crime intelligence unit agents.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the investigation into her disappearance and sudden reappearance is ongoing.
“It is our appeal that this investigation be allowed to take its course.”
*Note: The spelling of Amy-Leigh’s name has been amended after a family member confirmed that the initial report of her disappearance, calling her Amy-Lee, was incorrect.