‘How I escaped abduction’
Today Weekend Witness can reveal how in 1987, a young Pietermaritzburg girl was abducted by a man she now believes may have been linked to a decades-old sex ring.
In an exclusive interview with Weekend Witness, former Pietermaritzburg resident Jolene Buchanan recounted the events of the day she was abducted from outside the Royal Showgrounds and how she escaped the man’s clutches by jumping out of a speeding vehicle.
Now aged 43 with children of her own, Buchanan made contact with Weekend Witness following the release of the controversial book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island, saying the book and the hype surrounding it had triggered memories of the abduction that were not so clear before.
The Witness had printed the story of Buchanan’s abduction in 1987, but Buchanan said there was “much more” she remembered now than what had been printed in articles back then.
Buchanan was abducted a year before Fiona Harvey was kidnapped by one of the country’s most notorious paedophiles, Gert van Rooyen.
On August 18, 1987, while walking in town, the 12-year-old Buchanan was abducted by a man “in his 20’s driving a white Toyota Corolla”.
She said that day she was due to meet her mother at the Natalia building after she had finished sports at Northern Park primary school.
“I was just nearing the Royal Showgrounds when a man appeared at the side of the road.”
Buchanan said the man was standing next to a white Toyota Corolla. He was white, tall and slim and appeared to be in his 20’s.
“... He was very neat and well-dressed.”
He stopped her from crossing the bridge leading to Victoria Road by saying that a little girl had just been killed there. She first thought the man was a policeman and she began to panic as she did not know how else to get to her mom.
The man offered to drop her off, but he started travelling toward Athlone Primary.
“It was then I realised I had made a mistake.
“He told me he was going to take me to my mom at Athlone Primary but when I turned my head to look out the back window, he punched me in the stomach.”
Buchanan said the man then turned onto the N3 northbound lane. “I knew this was it. I knew I was in trouble but I made a decision to stay calm and co-operate.”
Buchanan said the man asked her “personal, inappropriate questions” about her siblings and then began to sexually assault her.
“I knew I wanted to jump out of the car but didn’t know how. He told me to take off my seat belt and lie across his lap. This was all while he was driving on the N3,” she said.
“At the time I did not understand what was happening but I knew that if I stayed in the car, I would not come back.”
She said the man took the Midmar Dam turn-off and had just passed the Tweedie off-ramp when she flung open the car door.
“He was driving between 80 and 100 km/h. I opened the door and he grabbed my jersey and tried to pull me back in.
“I kicked and screamed until he eventually let go. Then I just remember hitting the tar and rolling.
“I only remember snippets from there.”
She got up and ran to a nearby store where an elderly woman called the police.
“I was then rushed to Grey’s Hospital where they had to scrub the tar out of my body. It was horrific.”
Buchanan said her left arm was pulled so far back when she tried to jump from the car that all the nerves tore, ultimately paralysing her arm.
She made the decision in her adult years to have her arm amputated.
“The police never found him but I’m sure I saw him again a few months after the abduction.”
Buchanan was walking to her mom’s work place with her head down when she came across a pair of “neat, clean brown shoes — the same make and style” as those her kidnapper had worn.
“I looked up and he was staring at me. I put my head down and told myself not to run. I just carried on walking.”
A year later, Fiona Harvey was abducted from Clarendon, Pietermaritzburg on December 22, 1988.
Emotional meeting with the girls’ moms
Jolene Buchanan said she met with some of the parents of the six young girls who went missing between 1988 and 1989.
“The hardest part came when I met Tracey-Lee Scott Crossley’s mom when I was 13.”
Tracey-Lee (13) went missing while on her way to Cresta Mall in Johannesburg on August 1, 1988.
“Tracey’s mom asked if she could hold me because she had not hugged her daughter in a long time.
“That was real pain. I represented something they had lost. They didn’t know where their children were and I don’t know if we will ever know.
“I want people to know these are not horror stories. This is real. This story is ongoing. It didn’t die with six missing girls.”
‘It’s easy for kids to trust strangers’
Jolene Buchanan now wants to create awareness of the dangers children could face.
“I want parents to be aware of how easy it can be to get a child to trust a stranger,” she said.
“It is so important to communicate with your child and know where they are. It is vital that your children trust you and are able to speak with you openly about where they are going and who they will be with,” she added.
Buchanan said she wants to start giving talks at schools to help children and make them understand the dangers within society.