The mother claims that a woman, wearing a large jacket, picked up her child (4) and started running.
A 25-year-old suspect has been detained after an incident at Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday where parents claim a woman tried to kidnap their daughter. The mother of the child, who did not want to be named due to the nature of the incident, says she is thankful her husband fought back, grabbed their daughter and confronted the woman who allegedly tried to run away with her.
She says the family has been left traumatised by the incident and the events thereafter. She witnessed it happening through the glass doors of the mall, where she was standing while her husband brought the children donuts outside.
“It was my daughter’s birthday and she wanted to play on the rides so we told her we would go to the mall when it was quiet. It was just after 18:00 when we got there and my husband and four-year-old were buying donuts from the stand at the second entrance.
“I was watching them with my two younger children, aged one and three, just inside the door as it was cold. Three men accompanied by a woman were exiting the mall.
“The woman was wearing a large jacket and was walking behind my husband. She picked up my child and ran away. My child could not fight her off. My husband ran and forcefully grabbed our child from her.”
She says her husband ran after the woman and confronted her about what she had just done, which then attracted the attention of the mall’s security guard.
“At first, the security guard did not realise what was happening until he was informed by another patron. He then acted. We were taken, along with the woman, to the security office.”
Mother alleges she was further harassed by another group
The mother says that the family faced further trauma while they were waiting outside the security office as they were allegedly harassed by another group of men and women who seemed to know the woman that were taken in by officials.
“As we were walking to the mall security office, my husband called his brother and another security company as he felt that the mall security was not responding to the incident swiftly.
“When we got to the security office, my brother-in-law arrived, and he was told that he must wait outside the office with the children and me.
“We were waiting nearby the office when a group of men and women came through the side entrance of the mall and pushed through the glass door. I had my three children in a trolley, and they began to pull my children away from me in the trolley.
“My children were screaming and crying as they were pushing us around and harassing us. My brother-in-law had to shield us and only then did security manage to control the group. The manager from John Dory’s came to find out what the commotion was and took us in while we waited.•
The mother adds that she is thankful that her child was saved and urged all parents to be vigilant with their children.
“My husband had a panic attack about this. I can’t tell you how I feel about this, I am just [grateful] to all those who helped. I am so scared to even take my children out now.
“I am glad my husband reacted as fast as he did. It was scarier when the group tried to grab my children the second time outside the security office. We have to be so much more vigilant with our children going forward,” she says.
Liberty Mall aware of the incident
Liberty Midlands Mall released a statement saying that they were aware of the post circulating on social media regarding the incident.
“Upon reviewing security footage, Liberty Midlands Mall management can confirm that on Sunday, October 30, at approximately 18:30, a small group of soccer fans entered the mall. One of the fans proceeded to pick up a small child in their path. The intention of this individual is unknown.
“The mall security team reacted swiftly and escorted the supporter to the security office for further questioning. SAPS was alerted and urgently responded to the scene to deal with the matter. The child was not harmed and returned safely to their parent.
“Liberty Midlands Mall prioritises the safety and security of shoppers, staff and tenants and is trading as normal,” read the statement.
Public warned against circulating unverified information
Owner of Covert Security, Bilal Amla, who was one of the security companies that responded to the incident, praised all role players who were instrumental in assisting the family.
Addressing the attention the incident has received on social media, he cautioned people from circulating unverified social media posts.
“We are aware of the social media posts circulating regarding the attempted kidnapping incident at Midlands Liberty Mall and we appreciate the acknowledgement and thank all our well-wishers, however, we would like to let it be known that we have not released any posts regarding this matter until now and have played no part in the posts circulating on social media.
“All security companies are doing their best to partner together and fight crime collectively and this can only be achieved by working together for the common good. We urge the community members and all crime fighting groups to be especially vigilant as the festive season beckons,” says Amla.
SAPS spokesperson Sifiso Gwala confirmed that a 25-year-old was detained, and further investigations are ongoing.