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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Where is Joshlin Smith? Case of missing Saldanha girl extends abroad

Interpol, a London ship search and some DNA results... Get the latest developments in the disappearance of Joshlin Smith.

The search for missing six-year-old Joshlin Smith has entered its second month with Police Minister Bheki Cele revealing earlier this week that the South African Police Service (Saps) were now working with Interpol to find her.

Joshlin – from the Middelpos informal settlement near Diazville, in Saldanha – went missing on 19 February.

The latest developments in her tragic disappearance case came to light on Wednesday, 3 April, when the country’s top cop appeared on SABC 2’s Morning Live breakfast show.

Joshlin Smith: Interpol roped in, London ship searched

Cele, who visited the poverty-stricken West Coast community on 2 March, said police had expanded their search operation beyond South African borders, working closely with Interpol and other “sister organisations”.

According to him, an extensive search of a ship anchored in a London port unfortunately yielded no results.

Police Minister Bheki Cele during his visit to the Middelpos shack of Kelly Smith, the mother of missing Joshlin Smith, on 2 March. Photo: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/ Theo Jeptha

“A week ago, a ship was searched in London because there was information indicating she could have been in that one. It took about two-and-a-half days for the ship to be searched. She could not be found there.

“The net has gone far beyond the borders of South Africa, working with sister organisations such as Interpol and other organisations. We hope to know one day where Joshlin is,” the police minister said in the interview.

“The case back home in Saldanha is continuing and those people [the accused] have not told us exactly where we would find Joshlin.”

New items found in drain not linked to Joshlin – Cele

Cele added that the latest items taken for DNA testing could not be positively linked to Joshlin.

The discovery of a blue fleece shirt, Karrimor backpack, baby blanket and a piece of bone was made after residents complained to the Saldanha Municipality about a blocked drain at the back of Diazville High School in Noorddam Street.

 A fleece top, backpack, baby blanket and piece of bone discovered in a drain in Diazville were sent to forensics to determine whether they are connected to Joshlin Smith. Photo: Supplied

Residents claim that the clothing – allegedly stained with blood – belonged to one of the accused who they say were spotted in their street, as well as at the drain.

However, this cannot be verified by police as such sensitive information will only be revealed in court once the investigation has been completed.

One of the street’s residents, Veronique Pretorius, told Daily Maverick earlier this week that the items were already removed two weeks earlier from the drain by Saldanha municipality workers on 3 March.

However, according to her, the police only collected the items on Wednesday, 27 March, as the workers failed to contact authorities.

“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,” Pretorius explained.

“I called the Saps on Wednesday [27 March] about the clothes that had been removed from the drain, and they came right away.”

DNA results of previous discovery of bloodstained clothing, knife not made public

This is not the first time police have discovered clothing that could be linked to Joshlin’s disappearance.

On 3 March, Western Cape police said they had found a child’s bloodstained clothes, a sheet and a knife the previous evening in an open field in Middelpos.

The discovery was made about a kilometre away from the shack where Joshlin lived with her mother, Raquel “Kelly” Smith, three-year-old sister, 10-year-old brother and Kelly’s boyfriend Jacquen “Boeta” Appollis.

A knife that was planted in the ground that the police came across during the search for Joslin Smith in the Middelpos Forest on 4 March 2024 in Saldanha. Photo: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/ Theo Jeptha

No information has been released on whether the blood on these items is that of Joshlin.

This despite the fact that Provincial Commissioner
Lieutenant-General, Thembisile Patekile, told Daily Voice on 13 March that they were expecting the DNA results of the bloodstained items on the same morning he spoke to the publication.

At the time, Patekile said: “Depending on what we find from the forensic laboratory, if it needs further investigation, we will not make the results public.”

Mom Kelly and three others arrested

Suspects In The Joslin Smith Disappearance Case Appear At Vredenburg Magistrate's Court
Kelly Smith during the Joshlin Smith disappearance case at Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on 7 March 2024. Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

On 5 March, after Kelly, Appollis, the couple’s close friend Steveno van Rhyn and alleged Middelpos sangoma Phumza Sigaqa were questioned by the police, they were arrested in connection with the Grade 1 Diazville Primary School pupil’s disappearance.

Police later withdrew charges against Sigaqa, citing a lack of evidence.  

The trio will return to the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on 13 May on charges of human trafficking and kidnapping, alongside Lourentia Lombaard, who is the most recent suspect arrested on 15 March.

Lourentia ‘Renze’ Lombaard: Fourth accused in Joshlin Smith case ‘confessed’

According to police, Lombaard, who is widely known as Renze in the Middelpos community, has made a confession in relation to the disappearance of Joshlin. 

Lourentia Lombaard makes her first appearance at the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court in connection with the disappearance of Joslin Smith on 18 March. Photo: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/ Theo Jeptha

National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said that the details of the confession would only be provided at a later stage.

He also refused to comment on how Lombaard was linked to the case.

“That will come out in court. It would be wrong for me to divulge how she is linked to the case… The details of what happened and the merits will come out at a later stage, and the earliest will be if one of them applies for bail.”

Lombaard was reportedly the last person to see Joshlin before she mysteriously vanished on that fateful Monday.

Her 33-year-old mother claimed she left her daughter in the care of her boyfriend as the Grade 1 Diazville Primary School pupil was too sick to go to school that day.

ALSO READ: WATCH: A quarter button and ‘sakkie’ tik while Joslin Smith vanished into the night

Was Joshlin sold for muti?

Senior advocate Aradhana Heeramun, who appeared for the State during their first court appearance on 7 March, alleged that Kelly instructed Appollis and Van Rhyn to sell Joslin to another Middelpos man for R20 000 for muti.

The two men apparently made this chilling confession after a 36-hour interrogation at Saldanha Police Station.

joslin smith court missing girl sangoma
The four suspects in the Joshlin Smith disappearance case appear in the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on 7 March 2024. They are, from left, Jacquin ‘Boeta’ Appollis, Steveno van Rhyn, Racquel ‘Kelly’ Smith and Phumza Sigaqa. Photo: X/ @SAPoliceService

ALSO READ: Muti murders in SA: Has Joslin Smith fallen prey to ‘occult economy’?

All four suspects choose to remain behind bars

At their last appearance on 13 March, Smith, Appolis and Van Rhyn all abandoned their bail applications.

The state asked the court for more time after it said there was still outstanding information relating to the investigation, such as cellphone data and witness statements.

Lombaard also dropped her bail bid and will remain behind bars until 15 May when she joins her co-accused in the dock. 

According to Ntabazalila, more charges could be added and more arrests effected based on the evidence.

Renze allegedly approached family for money to cover drug debt

Lombaard’s 26-year-old cousin told Daily Voice that at first they didn’t know that she was implicated in the matter.

“We first saw this on social media and we were not sure they were talking about my cousin. But then the boyfriend’s name was mentioned and I asked my mom if it wasn’t her, and then we confirmed it.

“My mom is very hurt about this, the family is praying for her. She must just tell the truth.

“We are not close with her. She came to us to ask for money for drugs. She said she owed her drug dealer [money] … And that was the last time we saw her.”

Gayton McKenzie ups reward to R1m

In a Facebook post this week, Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie offered a R1 million reward for information relating to Joshlin’s disappearance. 

Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie and Joshlin Smith. Photos: Facebook/ gaytonmckenzie

“We are not losing hope and we will keep searching until we find our child. I’m putting a R1 million reward to anyone who can give us information on where Joshlin is. I know there’s someone out there who knows something. 

I was a criminal, and when I committed a crime, it was either my girlfriend or my friends who knew.

“So, somebody knows. I want that somebody, I’m speaking to you tonight – there’s R1 million for you,” said McKenzie during a livestream on his Facebook page.

  • Anyone with information on Joshlin’s whereabouts can anonymously contact Crime Stop at 08600 10111, or SMS Crime Line on 32211.

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