Sunday, 08 September 2013 23:45

Vanishings of The Young

Written by Ryan Swano
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What could seem like a scenario straight out of a scary movie script about an unnatural monster lurking in a neighbourhood and taking their children, two girls have disappeared eleven months apart from adjacent homes in Freedom Park, Tafelsig, which is part of Mitchells Plain on the Western Cape False Bay Coast.

In this article not only looks at this specific case which currently dominates the headlines but we also try to look at the broader issues surrounding missing children.

On Thursday 5 September The Pink Ladies put out an alert that 4 year old Shaskia Michaels has disappeared from her home and since then panic-stricken Mitchells Plain residents have been searching for her.
Eleven months ago, in October 2012, then 5 year old Kauthar Bobbs, living in the house right next door where Shaskia disappeared from, also went missing.

Not only the coincidence of the two girls living right next door to each other, but also the fact that they are of the same age group, have residents fearing the worst.  All forms of theories are doing the rounds and people are making comparisons to the dark cloud that hung over Mitchells Plain and the Cape Flats in the days of the Station Strangler that preyed on kids in the 1980's and early 1990's.


In this specific case a suspect has now been identified and is wanted in connection with the disappearance of Shaskia and possibly also the disappearance of Kauthar.
According to reports on IOL News, police are searching for a man widely known by residents who have said it is unusual for him not to be around. However, they had not seen him since Shaskia went missing. The man has since been identified as Robert Sylvester.
Anyone with information can call Warrant Officer Charles Julies on 079 894 1548, Crime Stop on 0860 01011 or SMS the Crime Line on 32211.

As reported by eNCA, today, on the fourth day since Shaskia's disappearance, the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille said: "The city is confident of a breakthrough in the search for two Mitchell's Plain toddlers who have gone missing."

The mayor was in Tafelsig as part of a team searching for Shaskia and has offered a R50 000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect identified in the case of the missing 4 year old Shaskia Michaels, who disappeared on Thursday, or for information in the case of Kauthar Bobbs, who disappeared last October.


According to Missing Children South Africa approximately one thousand four hundred and sixty (1460) children go missing each year. The incidence rate in Mitchells Plain is apparently higher than the national average but children disappear from all over the country and from all different kinds of neighbourhoods.

Many people are of course asking the same question that the police would ask right from the outset when a child is reported to be missing and this could seem like an unnecessary hurtful question when children disappear, but that question has nevertheless to be answered; What was the person responsible for the child doing at the time of the child's disappearance?
Assigning blame is not the aim of the question as the person responsible for the child at the time of the disappearance  is in all likelihood already filled with immeasurable guilt and angst.
The question is asked to draw a more accurate recreation of the circumstances around the disappearance.
At the end of the day the general public also benefits from these answers as we then become more aware of what situations can leave children in our care vulnerable to abduction.


As a parent one can not possibly have your eyes on your child 24 hours a day without fail. However parents need to literally train thwmselves and their children from a very young age how to handle various situations in order to ensure their health and their safety.

An abducted child is seldom taken by force and is usually tricked into accompanying the abductor.
Notably as one can see from cases that have been solved, many of the abductors are in some way known to the child and only in certain cases are they complete strangers.
This means that besides teaching your child how to avoid strangers, one should also teach them that even when someone familiar to them tries to get them to go somewhere without you expressly telling them that it's OK, they are to call for you immediately as loud as they can.
Understandably this is not so easy with a three or four year old toddler but you should teach, treat and be vigilant about each child according to their different intellectual and emotional ages.

When a child does go missing and you have checked in the immediate surroundings, waste no time in alerting the authorities.

One of the biggest misconceptions are that one has to wait 24 hours before one can approach the police to report someone missing. The very first few hours after someone of any age disappears are probably the most vital in terms of finding clues and having an increased chance of finding the person.
In the case of a child or a vulnerable adult, not a minute should be wasted.


On their website Missing Children South Africa has guidelines and tips that parents and children can familiarise themselves with that at the very least will either help people prevent their children from going missing or help people to start the process of trying to find a missing child.

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