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Missing South African girl's mother charged with kidnapping and trafficking

Mother of missing 6-year-old, Joslin Smith   -  
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South Africa

The mother of a six-year-old girl who has been missing in South Africa for nearly three weeks was charged on Thursday with kidnapping and trafficking her daughter, along with three other suspects, including her boyfriend.

It is a shocking twist in a case that has gripped the country and sparked deep anger in the poor coastal community of Saldanha Bay where the family lives.

Joslin Smith disappeared from her home some 120 kilometres north of Cape Town on 19 February while allegedly under the care of her mother Kelly’s partner.

Despite a massive search operation involving police, firefighters, city authorities, and specialised sniffer dog units, she has still not been located.

Bloodied child’s clothes found by investigators last weekend in a field near Joslin’s home have been sent to a laboratory for forensic examination, heightening fears that she had been killed.

Speaking outside court where the four suspects appeared on Thursday, Western Cape Police Commissioner Thembisile Patekile said even though the case was in court, the priority remained to find the little girl.

"If more people are to be arrested, if the investigation leads us to that we shall do so, because at this stage we do not have a child. Our ultimate goal is to find the child so that there can be closure,” he said.

He renewed calls for people to help find her amid fears she may have been taken to a different city or even out of the country.

There have also been allegations, reported in local media, that Kelly asked two of the men to sell her to a traditional healer for $1,000.

A child goes missing every five hours in South Africa, but most are found.

Western Cape Provincial Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagan Allen said he hoped they were one step closer to finding Joslin or what actually happened to her.

“We sincerely trust that the investigation will now unfold in terms of what has happened, but we are still keeping hope alive knowing that we wanting to ultimately find Joslin unharmed,” he said.

The four suspects did not enter a plea in response to the charges and are schedule to appear in court again next week.

As they left the courthouse in Vredenburg, a town near Saldanha Bay, in an armoured police vehicle, a large crowd gathered shouting “Justice for Joslin”.

Authorities have given different spellings for the girl's name. Police identified her as Joslin, while prosecutors named her as Joshlin in their documents.

It was not immediately possible to verify the spelling of her name.

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