The Laerskool Kollegepark teacher who was arrested on Wednesday for the kidnapping of Amy'Leigh de Jager, 6, in Vanderbijlpark, was allegedly using "narcotics" and owed money to drug lords.
This is according to a WhatsApp voice note the teacher's father, Riaan Botha, sent to a family member last week, shortly after she was arrested.
Botha confirmed the voice note's authenticity to News24 outside the Vanderbijlpark Magistrate's Court on Monday.
The 27-year-old teacher Tharina Human, who appeared on kidnapping charges on Monday, was arrested along with two alleged accomplices by members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.
The news that one of the alleged kidnappers was a teacher at the school - and a close friend of the family - came as a shock to many residents of the Vaal town.
'She was the mastermind'
In an attempt to pre-empt the imminent revelation of his daughter's identity as one of those who were arrested, he sent the voice note, saying: "I just wanted to tell you, so that you don't hear it from someone else - the mastermind behind the kidnapping of that little girl (Amy'Leigh) was my child. She organised the entire thing with the others, but she was the mastermind.
"They locked them up [on Wednesday] night. I didn't know this, but she [uses] narcotics, and she needed money to pay the people (drug dealers). I just wanted to tell you so that you don't get a shock when you hear that it was my child. So, the news has been broken and now you know. Have a good day."
On Monday, four men snatched Amy'Leigh from her mother's car at the school and drove off in a white Toyota Fortuner, News24 previously reported.
After initially demanding R2m as ransom, her kidnappers abandoned their plan and dropped Amy'Leigh off between 02:00 and 02:30 on Tuesday in a street close to The Shakespeare Inn hotel in Vanderbijlpark.
Close family friend
A man and a woman - identified by Rapport as Hendrik Brandt, 25, and Savannah Kriel, 22 - were on their way home from a bar when they came across the girl and took her to the Vanderbijlpark police station where she was reunited with her parents.
Human is a close friend of the child's mother, Angeline de Jager, News24 reported earlier.
On Human's Facebook page, the two women can be seen together in several pictures, and compliment each other using the nickname "heksie" (little witch).
Shortly after the kidnapping on Monday, Human sent a series of WhatsApp voice notes to parents, saying that there are "sickos out there" and asking for money for "flowers and a hamper" for Amy'Leigh's parents.
This article has been updated since initial publication. The names of Botha and Human have been added.