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MISSING CHILDREN

Potential evidence in Joshlin Smith disappearance sent to forensics more than month after discovery

Potential evidence in Joshlin Smith disappearance sent to forensics more than month after discovery
A blue fleece top, a blue Karrimor backpack, and a baby blanket discovered in a Saldanha drain have been sent to forensics to determine whether they are connected to six-year-old Joshlin Smith, who went missing on 19 February. I A forensic team members places items in a SAPS evidence bag. (Photos: Supplied)

A blue fleece top, a blue Karrimor backpack, and a baby blanket discovered in a Saldanha drain have been sent to forensics to determine whether they are connected to six-year-old Joshlin Smith, who went missing on 19 February 2024.

The items were discovered at the back of Diazville High School on Noordam Street after residents filed a complaint with the Saldanha municipality regarding ongoing drain blockages. The drain was cleaned, and these clothing items were removed.

On Tuesday 2 April, Veronique Pretorius — a resident of the street — told Daily Maverick that the clothing was pulled from the drain and left by the Saldanha Municipality workers on 3 March adding that the SAPS only removed the items last Wednesday, 27 March, after she alerted them.

“After Joshlin’s disappearance, a drain in the street overflowed. We made calls to the Saldanha Municipality, and eventually the items causing the drain blockage were cleared. I called the SAPS on Wednesday about the clothes that had been removed from the drain, and they came right away,” she said.

There are also unconfirmed reports by residents that one of the accused was allegedly spotted at the drain on the night of Joshlin’s disappearance. However, this cannot be verified by police as such sensitive information will only be revealed in court once the investigation has been completed.

Meanwhile, the SAPS has confirmed that the clothing items are now in their possession. Residents’ photos show members of the forensics team roaming the area and placing items in sealed SAPS evidence bags.

Residents remain frustrated that Joshlin Smith has still not been found.

Joshlin went missing on 19 February near Tsitsiratsitsi, Middelpos, Saldanha. Her mother, Kelly, claims the last time she saw her daughter was when she left for work at approximately 8am the same day. She said that she left the little girl with her boyfriend, Jacquen Appollis.  However, Joshlin was not present when Smith arrived home at around 5 pm.

Those arrested in connection with Joshlin’s disappearance include her mother, Racquel Chantel Smith, also known as Kelly, her boyfriend Appollis, Steveno van Rhyn and Lorentia Lombaard, who face charges of kidnapping and human trafficking stemming from Joshlin’s disappearance.

Kelly along with Appollis and Van Rhyn abandoned their bail on Thursday 7 March in the Vredenburg Magistrates’ Court, while Lombaard abandoned her bail on 25 March in the same court.

They have been charged with trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation, and kidnapping emanating from the disappearance of Joshlin.

Racquel Smith

Joshlin’s mother, Racquel Smith, making her way into the Vredenburg Magistrates’ Court. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Clothing discovery

This is the second batch of clothing sent for forensic testing in connection with the case. Bloodstained clothes found on 2 March near the area where Joshlin went missing were already sent for forensic analysis.

Provincial police commissioner Thembisile Patekile, during recent court proceedings marked by violence in which protestors pelted police with stones, said: “Forensic evidence is still being investigated, so the SAPS cannot comment on this.”

On Tuesday, police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi confirmed that the SAPS collected and sealed evidence of the clothing pieces recovered recently in an identified area.

“We can confirm that it is now in the possession of The South African Police Service. We confirm that the investigation into the disappearance of the mentioned person as well as the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the clothing continues,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Joshlin Smith accused bail hearing sees violence flare, police attacked outside court.”

Gayton R1-million reward

Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie, who was at the forefront of this case and has been regularly posting videos on TikTok, has offered a R1-million reward for any information that might lead to Joshlin’s whereabouts.

His videos have received widespread support, particularly in the Diazville and Middelpos informal settlements. This was demonstrated by the large crowd of green-clad supporters who attended court proceedings and promised to be present in large numbers at the four accused’s next appearance on 13 May, 2024.

On Tuesday, 26 March on his livestream page, while giving an update on Joshlin, McKenzie said the child has become the conscience of our nation.

“I am taking R1-million of my own money that I could have put into my political campaign, I will have a million rand less for posters, I will have a million rand less for t-shirts, what is bigger than politics is finding that green-eyed girl,” he said.

He repeated this call during a revival service held in Saldanha on Sunday 31 March. During the service, one of his social media influencers posted an interview with eNCA in which McKenzie reiterated the call.

@jonathanolyn Latest update 31/03/2024 R 1 million reward fot the safe return of #JoshlinSmith #joshlinsmithlatestupdate  #missingkids  #missingkidsawarness  #pinkladies  #fypシ゚viral #fypage  #foryourpage #foryourpagetiktok  #following #folowers  #followers➕ #followers😘thanku  #everyone  #southafricatiktok🇿🇦  #enca  #godbless  #gaytonmckenzie ♬ original sound – @Jontyza

He said: “We want to know who committed the crime, nobody wants to talk, the R1-million reward is that somebody must come forward and say I know who did it. No questions will be asked, just show us where our child is and you get a million rand.”

The SAPS has again appealed to anyone with information that might lead to the whereabouts of Joshlin Smith to please call Crime Stop on 08600 10111. DM

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