/ 4 April 2024

Joshlin Smith: More blood-stained clothes sent for testing

Joshlin Smith V2
The shack in Middelpos, Saldanha Bay, where Joshlin lived with her mother Kelly and her three-year-old sister. Photo: David Harrison

Police said they have sent bloodied items which could be related to the disappearance of six-year-old Joshlin Smith, found in a drain in the suburbs of Saldanha Bay over the weekend, for forensic analysis. Joshlin went missing from her home on 19 February.

“The search is still on and we can confirm that the police were in the area this week after blood stained clothing items were found near the area believed to be where Joshlin was seen in the last few days before her disappearance,” said Saldanha Bay councillor Vernon Vraagom. 

The discovery came after residents complained to the Saldanha municipality about a blocked drain at the back of Diazville High School. Municipal workers found blood-stained clothing items that police believe could be linked to Joshlin’s disappearance. Among the items were a blue fleece shirt, a blue backpack and a baby blanket.  

“We can confirm that the investigation into the disappearance of the mentioned person, as well as the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the clothing, continues,” said Western Cape police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi.

Community members of Middelpos alleged that one of the suspects in the case was seen with Joshlin in the area where the clothing items were found. 

This is not the first time police have discovered clothing that could be linked to Joshlin’s disappearance. In February, before arresting suspects in the case, Western Cape police said they had found blood-stained clothes in the Middelpos area, close to the shack where Joshlin lived with her mother Kelly Smith and her three-year-old sister.

No information has been released on whether the blood on that clothing was the missing child’s. 

“The police do not communicate with the community on any updates related to the case. We, as the community, have been providing them with information that we think could help us find Joshlin,” said Vraagom, who has been leading search operations to find the girl. 

Police have arrested four suspects in Joshlin’s disappearance, who will be appearing in court in May on charges of human trafficking and kidnapping. 

According to police, Lourentia Lombaard, the most recent suspect, arrested in March, has “confessed” about the disappearance of Joshlin. 

Lombaard was reportedly the last person to see the child before she vanished. 

But National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said information on the “confession” would only be provided at a later stage.

During her last court appearance, Lombaard — represented by LegalWise — abandoned her bail application. The case will be back in court on 15 May.

Two weeks after her daughter’s disappearance, police arrested Smith, her boyfriend Jacquen “Boeta” Appollis, Steveno van Rhyn and traditional healer Phumza Sigaqa. Police later withdrew charges against Sigaqa, citing a lack of evidence.  

At their last appearance, Smith, Appolis and Van Rhyn also abandoned their bail applications. That matter has been postponed until 13 May.

The state asked the court for more time after it said there was still outstanding information relating to the investigation, such as cellphone data and witness statements.

Community members of the Middelpos settlement in Saldanha Bay said the accused are “scared to come out [on bail] because they know they will have to answer to the community for their crimes. 

“They did not want bail because they know that if they come out, they will be beaten and forced to answer on what happened to Joshlin [and] we believe all of them know what happened to her,” a Middelpos resident told the Mail & Guardian

The search for Joshlin has entered its second month but community members have told the M&G that they have not lost hope that the little girl will be found alive. 

Joshlin disappeared on 19 February after her mother alleged that she was sick and had stayed home from school. She was in the care of Appollis, Smith’s boyfriend, at the time of her disappearance.

Although social media has been awash with speculation that Smith sold Joshlin for R20 000 for muthi, there is no evidence of this, and police have dismissed the rumours. 

Joshlin’s case has caught the attention of political figures in the metro, who are calling for the police’s swift response in solving the case. 

This week, in a Facebook post, Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie offered a R1 million reward for information relating to the child’s disappearance. 

“We are not losing hope and we will keep searching until we find our child. I’m putting a R1 million reward to anyone who can give us information on where Joshlin is. I know there’s someone out there who knows something. 

“I was a criminal, and when I committed a crime, it was either my girlfriend or my friends who knew.

“So, somebody knows. I want that somebody, I’m speaking to you tonight — there’s R1 million for you,” said McKenzie during a livestream on his page.