A Strand mother has warned children to be extra vigilant when walking home from school after she and others came to the rescue of a girl who was almost kidnapped by two men, led by a woman who pretended to be in distress.
Helene Cloete told News24 she wanted people to be aware of an incident near her house; to remind children not to drop their guard on their way home from school.
Cloete told News24 that she had arrived home with her child on Wednesday afternoon.
She heard the usual after-school chatter in the street as children from about five schools in the area walked home or went into the extra maths centre near her home.
"But it sounded like something was a bit unsettled," she continued.
"I thought it was just a bit noisier than usual because of Valentine's Day."
Then she heard doors slamming and tyres screeching.
"I looked out of the window and the next minute I heard a girl screaming, absolutely screaming: 'Help! Help! Help!'" she said.
Cloete, her children, their domestic worker and a neighbour ran outside immediately.
"[The school pupil] was screaming: 'They just robbed me, they robbed me.'"
She was "very, very hysterical", but managed to tell them that a woman had come up to her while she was passing pupils gathered outside the extra maths centre.
She told them that the woman claimed that her phone had been stolen and seemed upset. She allowed the woman to use her phone to call for help.
Two men in a white sedan were parked nearby and suddenly one of them got out and tried to grab her and drag her into the car, she told Cloete.
"One guy put his hand over her mouth and tried to shove her into the car," said Cloete.
The slamming of doors and screeching of tyres that Cloete had heard earlier was when the men abandoned their mission and sped off.
Cloete said the female pupil was so distressed that she could not remember her parents' phone numbers or her address at first.
It turned out that her family had recently relocated from Gauteng to the Western Cape for a fresh start away from crime. It was also the first time that she walked home.
She remembered a part of the name of the street, which was nearby. Through an internet search the group managed to find the location and went to call her parents.
Neighbourhood Watch members helped secure the scene while they waited for the police.
They tried to locate the pupil's cellphone, in the hope that it would lead them to the culprits, but were not successful.
Cloete said she understood that the pupil had been taken for a medical examination.
Later, when police statements were taken and descriptions of the suspects were given, Cloete's daughter remembered seeing the woman as they returned from school.
In retrospect, and after studying neighbourhood CCTV footage showing the vehicle, they suspect the gang had been waiting to pounce on one of the pupils walking home.
Western Cape police spokesperson Sinathi Joni confirmed the incident and said police were treating it as a robbery and attempted kidnapping.
"Circumstances surrounding the incident are yet to be established with no arrests made at this stage," said Joni.
"Anyone with information that could be of assistance in this case is kindly urged to contact Crime Stop at 08600 10111. All and any information received will be treated with high confidentiality."
Cloete added: "I'm not trying to be sensationalist. I just want parents and children to realise they must be vigilant."
Claims that there was a second similar incident in the area could not be confirmed by police.
The pupil's father was not immediately available for comment.