‘I never gave up look­ing for her’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WARDA MEYER

FOR NEARLY two decades a Cape Town mother anx­iously waited and prayed for news of her miss­ing daugh­ter. This Christ­mas she has re­ceived her best present ever – her daugh­ter has been found alive and well.

The bearer of the good news and her own “Santa Claus” is a lo­cal po­lice­man who worked tire­lessly to solve the cold case and suc­ceeded in un­der two weeks.

Delores Cys­ter’s world fell apart in 1993 when her daugh­ter John­nica Bai­ley, who was two years old at the time, was snatched by a cou­ple paid by Cys­ter to care for the tod­dler while she was at work.

For 18 years, Cys­ter, from Free­dom Park in Mitchells Plain, fran­ti­cally searched for her daugh­ter’s kid­nap­pers, hop­ing her lit­tle girl would be re­united with her six sib­lings.

Cys­ter rou­tinely checked on the case with the po­lice.

This month her per­se­ver­ance paid off.

War­rant of­fi­cer Ni­cholas du Plessis from the Fam­ily Vi­o­lence, Child Pro­tec­tion and Sex­ual Of­fences Unit, took pity on Cys­ter and vowed to look into the case.

Du Plessis man­aged to track down John­nica in Port El­iz­a­beth within two weeks and now Cys­ter is wait­ing for tests to con­firm her daugh­ter has in­deed been found.

Cys­ter said: “I never gave up look­ing for her. Call it a Christ­mas mir­a­cle – be­cause that’s what it is. I have my baby back. The pain and agony is fi­nally a thing of the past. I know where she is.”

Cys­ter said she al­ways had a feel­ing that her child was still alive.

Re­call­ing the day that John­nica dis­ap­peared, Cys­ter said she had left her daugh­ter with Phillip and Jo­hanna Am­braal, as she usu­ally did when she went to work at a weld­ing com­pany. “John­nica was sup­posed to sleep over on the Fri­day night and I was go­ing to fetch her af­ter work the next day. But when I ar­rived they were gone… Just packed up and left… no note, no warn­ing, noth­ing.”

She tracked down the cou­ple’s former land­lady who told her they had moved back home to Port El­iz­a­beth.

She searched for two years on her own, mak­ing trips to Port El­iz­a­beth, be­fore go­ing to the po­lice.

“Even­tu­ally two years later in 1995, I went to open a case, but by then the trail had run cold.”

Cys­ter said she was shocked and over­whelmed with emo­tion when Du Plessis re­cently phoned her.

“He told me he had good and bad news. I first went pale. It felt like the blood was be­ing drained from my body… At first I thought my child had died and I urged him ‘please don’t tell me she’s dead’.” Du Plessis told her that the cou­ple who had taken her daugh­ter were dead and that her daugh­ter was al­ready a mother of a pi­geon pair, aged one and three years.

Cys­ter said she had hoped to have her girl back by Christ­mas but added that it was not meant to be – as yet. “I have two grand­chil­dren I never knew ex­isted. I wish I had funds to pay for the DNA tests my­self so that the process could be fast-tracked and I can have them with me,” said Cys­ter.

With­out the test con­firm­ing iden­tity, Cys­ter is forced to wait longer be­fore be­ing able to make con­tact with her daugh­ter.

“She is ob­vi­ously in shock, need­ing time to process it all. It would have been great show­ing her off at Christ­mas but I’ve waited all these years and an­other month …would prob­a­bly not hurt. At least I know she’s safe.”

Cys­ter said her mes­sage to her long-lost daugh­ter was: “You’re my Christ­mas mir­a­cle, al­ways re­mem­ber

PIC­TURE: LEON LESTRADE

CHRIST­MAS MIR­A­CLE: Delores Cys­ter hugs War­rant Of­fi­cer Ni­cholas du Plessis af­ter her daugh­ter was found in Port El­iz­a­beth.

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