Angel 'abducted' from her school
A US father, said to have assumed the identity of a dead man, allegedly snatched his daughter from her foster mother as she was dropped off at her Pretoria school.
The alleged kidnapping outside Waterkloof Primary School yesterday has sparked a nationwide search for seven-year-old Pura Pahlo, with Interpol and South Africa's neighbouring countries placed on high alert.
For years Pura's foster parents have, they say, been trying to protect her from her father, who they claim, has spent months arranging the kidnapping.
Ray Pahlo - who reportedly has seven passports - allegedly recruited four Zimbabwean men to pose as police officers to help kidnap Pura.
He is wanted in connection with a string of charges, including one of kidnapping Pura in 2007.
The alleged abduction occurred as Pura and her foster mother, Kim Andreou, arrived at the school.
Four men, she said, forced her out of the car, handcuffed her and told her that she was under arrest on a charge of kidnapping.
As she screamed for help, Pahlo, she said, ran to the car, grabbed Pura and raced off.
Parents and teachers, alerted by Andreou's screams, raced to help, overpowering the four men.
Pura was in foster care for six years following a bitter custody battle between Pahlo and her Ghanaian mother.
Her foster father, Evan Andreou, said his biggest fear was that he and his wife would never see their "little angel" again.
"If he gets out of the country, Pura is gone," he said.
Andreou said it was not the first time Pura's father had snatched her.
"He has no love for her. Last year he tried to 'buy' Pura from Kim when he came to our creche. He offered her R10000 for his 'property'.
"In 2007, he snatched Pura from her creche. He tried to claim asylum with the Red Cross but the police rescued Pura," said Andreou.
"Kim cannot get Pura's screams out of her head. When she closes her eyes, she sees Pura disappearing."
He said that, though he did not think Pahlo would hurt Pura, "anything can happen".
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Annabelle Middleton said: "US embassy officials are working with our task team, including Interpol and the National Intelligence Agency.
"Pahlo has a number of passports and is illegally in South Africa. All our border officials are on alert," she said.
Middleton confirmed that Pahlo was wanted for several crimes.
Asked about the 2007 kidnapping, Middleton could not provide details.
She said the Zimbabwean suspects had been charged with aiding and abetting, and with impersonating police officers.
Anyone with information about Pura or Pahlo, or a beige Mercedes Benz with the licence plate SPR947GP, should contact the investigating officer, Constable Johannes Tjiane, on 083-766-9342.