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Mum of ‘South Africa’s Madeleine McCann’ arrested after girl, 6, snatched in ‘plot to sell her to settle £850 drug debt’

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THE mum of “South Africa’s Madeline McCann” has been arrested after her daughter was snatched to pay off her drug debts.

Kelly Smith, 33, has been charged with kidnapping and human trafficking following the disappearance of Joshlin Smith, 6, last month.

Joshlin Smith, 6, disappeared last month

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Joshlin Smith, 6, disappeared last monthCredit: Facebook/Gayton McKenzie
Joshlin's mother, Kelly has been charged with the kidnapping and human trafficking of her daughter

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Joshlin’s mother, Kelly has been charged with the kidnapping and human trafficking of her daughterCredit: Reuters
The mother of three arriving in court after denying she had sold her daughter to pay off her drug debt

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The mother of three arriving in court after denying she had sold her daughter to pay off her drug debtCredit: AFP

The mother-of-three has denied selling her daughter but local media claim the schoolgirl’s arrested stepfather and a friend made the confession to police.

The Citizen report that Smith had ordered Joshlin’s stepdad, Jacques Appollis, and their friend, Steveno van Rhynto, to flog the youngster for R20,000 (£850).

The report adds that sources had revealed the two men were sent out to find a witchdoctor who would pay for Joshlin’s body parts to use in black magic potions.

But the National Prosecuting Authority and South African Police said there was no evidence the girl was sold for use in “muti” but instead trafficked for “exploitation”.

Known to all as “the girl with the sparkling green eyes”, Joshlin suddenly vanished while playing outside her home in Saldanha Bay, near Cape Town, last month.

Having taking a day off school on February 19, it would be the last time that anybody would see her.

It was only several weeks later when Smith, Appollis and Van Rhynto were arrested in connection with her disappearance.

A fourth person, Lourentia Lombaard, 32, was arrested this week.

Lombard is a neighbour and close friend of the missing girl’s mum and faced the same magistrates today.

The case has gripped South Africa since Joshlin went missing, with thousands having joined in the searches.

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An angry crowd gathered outside the court today as police riot trucks watched, after tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at a previous hearing when tempers flared.

The accused mother has been beaten up in prison while on remand ahead of her March 13 hearing, before she was later found to be pregnant and put into solitary confinement.

When Lombaard appeared in court today, it was confirmed she had made a confession, although state prosecutor Jacques van Wyk gave no details.

The four accused are all charged with the kidnap and human trafficking of Joshlin for the purposes of exploitation and were remanded in custody until May 19.

If convicted, the penalty carries a life sentence behind bars.

Both the missing girl’s mother and stepfather admit to having a Tik (crystal meth) habit and had taken drugs on the day she disappeared.

But the couple denied to a local politician that she was sold to pay off their drug debts.

A huge search was launched for Joshlin following her disappearance, involving hundreds of local people, the Royal Navy, K9 units, the police, drones, the army and top search and rescue teams.

Minister of Police, Behki Cele, joined in to encourage the army of searchers but after a month scouring the coastline, the sea and miles of mainland, there was no sign of her.

South African Police privately admit they are searching for a body but publicly insist there is “still hope”, although the search teams have been reduced to almost nil.

Criminologist and National Co-Ordinator for the charity Missing Children South Africa, Bianca van Aswegen, 39, has been helping police with their search.

She said the most recent state figures show a child disappears in South Africa every five hours.

Van Aswegen said: “Here this is a world where children become statistics and their cases go cold and names are often forgotten – but this case is very different to most others.

“The publicity is incredible and the amount of people searching is huge.

“In a way, it could be compared to the case of Maddie McCann who vanished in Portugal.

“The McCann case is the biggest missing person case in the world and with all the publicity around Joshlin’s case, she could be called South Africa’s Maddie McCann.

“Despite what has been said about it being a muti killing I am hopeful that Joshlin is still alive but what is clear is that those four in the dock know what happened.”

Van Aswergen believes at least one of the four accused knowns where Joshlin is and has urged them to put South Africa out of its misery.

“Everybody wants to know what has happened to the girl with the green eyes. Whatever they have done these four have to think of Joshlin and tell the truth” she said.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Potje refused to comment on the muti murder allegations and said: “We cannot disclose any operational details.

“It is at a delicate stage and could compromise the investigation going forward”.

He said mum Kelly – whose real first name is Racquel but is known as Kelly – was walking her daughter to Diazville Primary School on the day she disappeared.

Lieut Col Potje said: “Joshlin said she felt ill so Kelly took her back home and left her in the care of Appollis but when she came home from work she could not find her.

“The next day she reported Joshlin missing and since then a massive search for her began and despite the number of people involved there has been no trace” he said.

Joshlin’s mother Kelly has two other children, a ten-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, who are staying with family members under the eye of social services.

All four will appear at Vredenburg Magistrates Court on May 13 as detectives await DNA results on bloodstained child clothing, a knife and a sheet found nearby.

The data on the cell phones of all four accused is still being investigated and witness statements taken and they were all remanded in custody for their own safety.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazlila said information with regard to any “confessions” will be revealed to the public at a later court hearing.

He said: “The latest is we still don’t have the child and don’t know where she is.”

Joshlin's stepdad, Jacques Appollis (left) and friend Steveno van Rhyn (centre) have also been charged with kidnapping and human trafficking

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Joshlin’s stepdad, Jacques Appollis (left) and friend Steveno van Rhyn (centre) have also been charged with kidnapping and human traffickingCredit: Twitter@SAPoliceService
Joshlin's disappearance has sparked outrage across South Africa, sparking riots

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Joshlin’s disappearance has sparked outrage across South Africa, sparking riotsCredit: AFP
Protesters have been gathering in the streets and outside courts

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Protesters have been gathering in the streets and outside courtsCredit: AFP
South African Police Services (SAPS) officers have been clashing with protesters in South Africa

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South African Police Services (SAPS) officers have been clashing with protesters in South AfricaCredit: AFP

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