A girl went missing, seizing South Africa’s attention. Now her mother is charged with selling her

The mother of a six-year-old girl who has been missing in South Africa for almost three weeks has been arrested and charged with kidnapping and selling or trafficking her daughter.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The mother of a six-year-old girl who has been missing in South Africa for almost three weeks was arrested Thursday and charged with kidnapping and selling or trafficking her daughter, a shocking turn in a case that attracted attention of the country and caused deep anger in the small, poor coastal community where the family lives.

The girl, Joslin Smith, has still not been found and police renewed calls for “every citizen, every person” to help find her, fearing she may have been taken to another city or even out of the country.

In the days following Joslin’s disappearance last month, local media reported that neighbors had accused her mother of selling her for just over $1,000.

The discovery of a child’s discarded clothing near Joslin’s home last weekend heightened emotions.

Her mother, Kelly Smith – whose full name prosecutors gave is Racquel Chantel Smith – has now been charged along with three others, two men and a woman, with kidnapping and human trafficking. One of the men is Smith’s friend. She claimed she left Joslin with him on February 19 while she went to work.

Joslin was reported missing that day.

The four suspects have not entered pleas on the charges and a new court hearing was scheduled for next week. They remain in custody, prosecutors said.

Joslin has not been found despite a major search involving police, firefighters, city authorities and specialist sniffer dog units around the family home near Saldanha Bay, about 120 kilometers north of Cape Town on South Africa’s west coast. The National Police Minister visited the area and met with Kelly Smith.

Police said a child’s clothing was recovered last weekend near the settlement of small houses and huts where Joslin lived. It was sent to a laboratory for forensic examination. Community members also involved in the search said clothing was stained with blood and a knife was also found. The police do not want to provide more details about what was discovered.

Prosecutors said in court documents released Thursday that Kelly Smith and the others conspired to kidnap Joslin and intentionally sold, delivered or bartered her. The suspects face life in prison if convicted of the main charge of human trafficking.

The four suspects left the courthouse in Vredenburg, a town near Saldanha Bay, in an armored police van as a large crowd gathered outside, repeatedly shouting “Justice for Joslin.”

Western Cape Province Police Commissioner Thembisile Patekile told reporters that more arrests could be made, but authorities also needed to refocus on the search for Joslin.

“Right now we don’t have a child,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to find the child. We still want to find that child alive.”

Authorities have given several spellings for the girl’s name. Police identified her as Joslin, while prosecutors referred to her as Joshlin in their documents. It was not immediately possible to verify the spelling of her name.

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AP Africa News: https://apnews.com/hub/africa

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