Eden Laird, a 13-month-old baby boy who was kidnapped from his home in Brackendowns, Alberton, on the East Rand earlier this week, has been returned to his family.
Dessie Rechner, director of missing children NGO Pink Ladies, said the boy had been safely returned to his father and taken to a hospital for a medical examination as a precaution after a sting operation.
Police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini confirmed that an “effectively executed tactical takedown” by a multi-disciplinary team led to the arrest of five suspects for Laird’s kidnapping.
Laird, who has grey eyes and blond hair, was last seen at about 08:45 on Tuesday when a domestic worker took him for a walk and never returned. She had tied him to her back with a light blue blanket.
Dlamini said police had immediately launched an intelligence-driven operation, keeping close tabs on the numerous phone calls in which suspects demanded a R6m ransom from the parents, in return for the safe release of the child.
“Taking cue from the police hostage negotiator, police arrested the initial two suspects at the ransom drop-off point in Ekurhuleni West.”
He said further investigations led police to Windmill Park, where the domestic worker and another suspected co-conspirator were also arrested. A fifth suspect was arrested in Katlehong, where a vehicle, a red Nissan Sentra, was seized on suspicion of having been used in the commission of the crime.
Rechner said the domestic worker was found in possession of ransom money that had been paid from a previous unsuccessful money drop on Thursday.
Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Deliwe de Lange has now sanctioned an immediate further investigation by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) towards securing a successful conviction in court.
Four of the suspects are from Zimbabwe, while the fifth is South African.
“It is important in this instance to mention the nationality of the suspects in cautioning members of the public against recklessly employing people without conducting the necessary background checks,” said De Lange.
The provincial commissioner also applauded the police team for their determination and dedication in successfully reuniting the missing child with his parents.