Free State mom speaks about shocking find after ‘kidnapping’

Eight months after a father from Harrismith in the eastern Free State had run off with his three-year-old son, he’s still refusing to say where the toddler is.

The boy’s mother is hoping her estranged husband had left their son in someone’s safe care – but he’s refusing to tell her or the police where the child is.

Cheinelle Nortjé (42) believes her husband, Nantes (47) – who’s been charged with kidnapping their son – did it to punish her for wanting to divorce him after a 23-year marriage. Though Liam’s been missing for eight months, she believes she’ll see her little boy again.

“I don’t wish this incredible hell on my greatest enemy,” she says. “I just want to say to Nantes, ‘Tell me where my Liam is. I just want to hold him in my arms again. I won’t keep our child from you.’ ”

Nantes, who ran off with Liam in November last year, was arrested on 18 July at a house in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal. There was no sign of Liam at the house.

Nantes has appeared in court three time since his arrest.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mmako Mophiring confirmed to YOU that Nantes’ most recent appearance was on 6 August in the magistrate’s court in Harrismith, and that he’s been charged with kidnapping. Since his arrest he hasn’t said a word about Liam’s whereabouts.

“The investigation continues and has been carrying on for some time,” Mophiring said, adding that Nantes’ next court appearance will be on 21 August, when he’s expected to apply for bail.

The last time Cheinelle heard her youngest child’s voice was on 21 November last year when Nantes called her and they argued. The last thing he said to her, as she could hear Liam screaming hysterically in the background, was, “You’ll never see Liam again.”

He then told her he’d left her a surprise in the neighbouring town of Kestell.

Liam Nortje

Cheinelle explains that after it became clear the marriage wasn’t working – for several reasons – Nantes moved out of their home and went to live with a family member in Kestell. He still helped to care for Liam because she was working full-time.

After the call Cheinelle went to Kestell as soon as she could get a lift with someone.

“Liam has the most beautiful blond hair and we’d never cut the ducktail in his neck,” she says. But in Kestell a shocking find was waiting.

“The ducktail was tied with an elastic and the ends of the hair were burnt. I was hysterical. I was crazy. That’s was the closest I’d been to Liam ever since [the phone call].”

She has two daughters, Wynette (18) and Rochelle (15), who are heartbroken over the disappearance of their baby brother.

& Tania Opperman from the South African Support Initiative (SASI), an organisation that helps to find missing persons, has been supporting Cheinelle and her family over the past eight months. She asks that anyone with information contact her on 084-830-1031, her colleague Wendy Pascoe on 064-648-1577, or the Harrismith police’s Phuthaditjhaba Family, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit on 058-624-1000.