Bitcoin kidnapping was 'meticulously planned' - mom
Mother begs her son's abductors to send him home before his 13th birthday next week
The father of Katlego Marite, 12, only halfway read a ransom note for his son before looking up and asking: “What is bitcoins?”
Marite’s family home is called the “Nkandla” of eMalahleni, and locals believe there is “money there”, which could explain why only Marite was targeted by kidnappers outside his house in the suburb of Tasbet Park on Sunday.
His dad found a note at their home after the abdcution, demanding 15 bitcoins before May 27 to ensure his safe return. A bitcoin is worth around R100,000. Otherwise, Katlego will “be hanged, then decapitated” and “a copy of the video will be delivered to you”. The kidnappers in the note also provide their bitcoin wallet address for the transfer.
Marite was still missing on Tuesday afternoon.Speaking to Times Select from their home, his distraught mother, Miriam, said the family had no idea what bitcoins were and had only ever heard of them after Katlego’s kidnapping.
The family had not managed to meet their demand of paying the first bitcoin by Monday night.
“You know, that is worrying me because they gave an instruction that the first one was to be deposited (on Monday) and we didn’t. Now they are quiet,” she said.
“I’m just worried why. They were supposed to talk to us, remind us about their demand but they are quiet.
“Yesterday we were waiting anxiously for them to call; even Sunday I thought they would call us late in the evening.”
She said she was badly hurt and worried about her son.
“A lot is going through my head. A lot of questions. I'm asking: ‘Why me? Why my child?’
“And why have these people not said anything to us?”The family said they had spent the last few days doing their research on bitcoins and trying to find out how they could obtain them.
She said she recently found out that a silver Toyota Corolla, the vehicle her son was abducted in, had been seen driving past their house before.
“I don’t know that car. I’ve never seen it but Katlego’s friends say this car is forever passing here and when it drove past our house, it drove very slowly,” said Marite.
At the time, Katlego and his friends thought nothing of it.
This could be because their mansion draws attention from those who drive by. Locals and even the police have since dubbed the house “Nkandla” after former president Jacob Zuma’s own lavish homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.
“They noticed [the car slow down]. To them it was funny that why it drives slowly when it passes here and you will find [the car’s occupants] suspiciously looking,” Marite added.Katlego and his two friends were walking home from a spaza shop on Sunday when the same vehicle stopped beside them.According to the Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, one of the vehicle’s occupants, who was dressed in a black and green jacket, grabbed Katlego and placed him in the vehicle before it sped off.
His mother said she believed the suspects had been meticulous in making sure that they had the right child.
Her son’s friends had told her that the vehicle’s occupants had watched them as they played soccer a week before the incident.
“They told me they were playing soccer on our street and this very car drove past them. As they were approaching they drove very slow and they were watching them, looking at them, [as though] making sure that this is the one they want. But by then, [the boys] didn’t know. Even on the day of the incident, according to them, they saw the car driving up and down and still they were looking at them,” Marite said.
She said her son had never told her anything about the suspicious vehicle.
“He never said anything. He never complained about anything. Maybe he was also not suspicious of anything,” Marite said.
Times Select has seen footage taken from the CCTV cameras outside the house where Katlego was taken.
While a big tree conceals the actual moment when Katlego is grabbed and thrown into the car, it shows one of his friends holding his hands to his head in shock and later running in the direction of Katlego’s home.Maureen Scheepers of the SA Community Watch Group told Times Select their team was out in full force along with the police, searching for the young boy.
“We searched from 4pm until 6pm. At 6pm we came back here and the ransom note was here,” said Scheepers.
The note had been typed out.
“The father read the note. He didn’t read the whole note. He just read the first part of the note and he saw that they were asking for bitcoins. He looked at me and asked what is bitcoins. From the start, he did not even know what they were looking for. Whoever these people are possibly have the wrong information about these people,” Scheepers said.
“In Witbank, this house is known as Nkandla and obviously people believe there is money there. They believe there is something there.”
Asked why a person would demand bitcoins instead of cash, Scheepers explained that bitcoins, a global cryptocurrency, are not traceable.For now, all Miriam is hoping for is her son’s safe return before his 13th birthday next Saturday.
She hasn’t had a wink of sleep since her son was taken.
“I think around 2am, I was just watching, looking through the window. With every car that was passing, I kept on saying maybe they will stop next to the gate, drop him off and then leave and I intend doing that every day. I won’t sleep until my son is back,” Miriam said.
She had a message for the kidnappers.
“My honest plea is for them to bring my son back alive. They musn’t hurt him. That is what I am asking,” she said.
Katlego’s elder sister was cleaning around the house while her father was busy making calls during the Times Select visit.
Miriam said this had caused strain for the entire family.
“Nobody is coping. This morning around 3am, my husband was crying. He was crying, screaming. Nobody is coping,” she said, choking as she tried holding back her own tears.