Schoolteacher jailed for 10 years after Vanderbijlpark child's kidnap for ransom

17 September 2020 - 13:11 By Iavan Pijoos

The four kidnappers of a six-year-old pupil from Vanderbijlpark a year ago were sentenced to lengthy jail terms on Thursday.

Ringleader Tharina Human, a 28-year-old grade RR teacher, and accomplices Laetitia Nel, 41, Pieter van Zyl, 51 and Bafokeng Molemohi, 24, were sentenced in the Gauteng high court, sitting in Palm Ridge, after they all entered guilty pleas.

None has previous convictions.

Human was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment of which five years are suspended on condition that she is not again convicted of kidnapping. She was sentenced to five years for extortion, which will run concurrently with her first sentence. Effectively, Human must serve 10 years in prison.

Pieter van Zyl and Bafokeng Molemohi, after being jailed for their role in kidnapping a six-year-old child.
Pieter van Zyl and Bafokeng Molemohi, after being jailed for their role in kidnapping a six-year-old child.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/ The Sunday Times

Nel was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment of which three years are suspended. She was sentenced to a further five years for extortion, to run concurrently with her first sentence. Effectively, Nel will serve five years behind bars.

Van Zyl was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment of which five years are suspended. He was also sentenced to a further five years' direct imprisonment which will run concurrently with his first sentence. This means Van Zyl must spend an effective eight years behind bars.

Molemohi got 12 years' imprisonment of which five years are suspended, as well as five years imprisonment which will run concurrently with his first sentence. Effectively, Molemohi will serve seven years behind bars.

Laetitia Nel must serve five years in jail for her part in the kidnapping.
Laetitia Nel must serve five years in jail for her part in the kidnapping.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/ The Sunday Times

During mitigation of sentencing, Human's lawyer David Mey told the court that she was “truly sorry” for the heartache she caused the family and her extended family.

Mey said Human didn’t benefit from her actions and would suffer as she would be deprived of her young daughter for a long time.

State prosecutor advocate Salome Scheepers told the court that the kidnapping of the child had a severe impact on the family and left them traumatised, and they had believed that they would not see their child again.

The kidnapping had an impact on the relationship of her parents when it was initially [and falsely] suspected that her mother was involved in the kidnapping scheme, Scheepers said. She had been friends with the teacher.

Both children had to be moved to a different school after the incident, as they struggled to cope.

She said the kidnapped child’s brother was particularly traumatised because his teacher, whom he had loved and respected, was behind the kidnapping of his sister.

Following the incident, her mother had an emotional breakdown, the six-year-old wet her bed and suffered from nightmares, Scheepers told the court. Scheepers said the father had also struggled to sleep and stayed awake because he felt that he needed to protect his family.

- The child's identity is being withheld in line with legal opinion protecting minors who are victims of crime

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