Cape Town – Anchen Muller, the 13-year-old who ran away from home after meticulous planning, was found by police on Tuesday evening in dangerous and appalling conditions in a shack in one of Cape Town’s most dangerous informal settlements.
She had apparently stayed there overnight on Monday, Netwerk24 reported.
On Wednesday morning, there was no sign that Muller had, just hours before, been found in the shack in the Malawi squatter camp just outside Bishop Lavis.
Residents warned Netwerk24 journalists to put away their cellphones and camera equipment.
“You’ll be robbed here,” one woman said while taking the journalists to the shack where Muller was found.
As the door opens, you are hit by the smell of a fire being made in a can. The shack is pitch dark.
A hint of light filters through when the door is opened ever so slightly.
Two beds – a single and a three-quarter – just fit into the room.
Carol Manuel, 48, and her son Marco, 29, live here.
In one corner, behind the three-quarter bed, there is a heap of clothes. According to the Manuels, Muller arrived there with a family member on Monday evening. They couldn’t say exactly how she had arrived in Bishop Lavis.
Manuel said she’d been carrying a backpack and told them that she’d run away from home.
According to information at Netwerk24’s disposal, the timeline of developments between Friday and Tuesday probably read like this:
Friday, August 18
Muller leaves her home in Vredekloof, Brackenfell, at about 19:30. She told her mom, Hanlie Ferriera, that a friend’s parents were coming to pick her up. They were going to attend a prayer meeting at Butterfly World near Paarl.
After that, she would spend the weekend with the friend in Table View. She in all probability left her home in a taxi she’d booked.
Saturday, August 19
Her cellphone is off. Her mom suspects that the battery has run down.
Ferreira on Tuesday said that it had happened before that Muller’s cellphone battery had run down. She wasn’t too concerned yet.
She said Muller was sometimes careless and didn’t worry if the battery was flat.
On Saturday, Muller is seen with a young man in River Street in Bishop Lavis. It’s suspected that the taxi dropped her off at this man’s house.
Sunday, August 20
She is still in Bishop Lavis.
On Sunday at about 22:00, Muller’s mom becomes concerned that her daughter isn’t home yet. She doesn’t have a number for the friend Muller is supposed to have spent the weekend with.
She later said that 22:00 was already past Muller’s curfew.
Muller’s cellphone was still off.
Monday, August 21
Muller’s mom waits until after 02:00 at the entrance to the complex where they stay, in the hopes that her daughter will return home.
She phoned Reynhardt Muller, Muller’s dad, on Monday morning to inform him that Muller hadn’t come home. He immediately went to the Brackenfell police station to report her missing.
On Monday, Muller’s cellphone is traced to Bishop Lavis. Police suspect her SIM card was removed from the phone.
Beugon Walker, 24, and his girlfriend, Malikah Engelbrecht, 20, take pity on Muller after the man she’d been in Bishop Lavis with, kicked her out.
According to Walker she’d told them that the man said his parents were giving him a hard time because she was sleeping there. However, he first took her cellphone, sneakers and jacket.
They go as far as Delft, where they hear over the radio that Muller is missing and that she’s only 13, and not 19 as she’d claimed to be.
Walker says Muller told them that she’d met the young man with whom she’d spent the night on Facebook. He also thought she was 19.
Muller and the couple then went to the Malawi informal settlement where they spent the night with the Manuels.
According to Walker they wanted to take her to the police station in Bishop Lavis the following day.
However, she didn’t want to go and reportedly asked them to take her to Kalksteenfontein.
Tuesday, August 22
The police find Muller’s cellphone at about 22:00. The man with whom she’d stayed in River Street is taken in for questioning. He is in his 20s.
He has her personal belongings – cellphone, sneakers and jacket.
A relative of Walker’s takes the police to the Malawi informal settlement, where they find Muller, Walker, Engelbrecht and the Manuels fast asleep.
Muller is unharmed. A police spokesperson, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, said on Wednesday morning that she’d been placed in the care of her mother.
Neither of Muller’s parents took any calls or responded to messages on Wednesday. The police would not say anything about the circumstances in which Muller was found.