After five years, the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court has brought closure to the kidnapped Alberton baby case. Nelisani Gabela and Cleopatra Manjankozi, the domestic helper and her co-accused involved in the abduction of 13-month-old Eden Laird in 2018, were sentenced to 15 years in prison for extortion and kidnapping in August.
Following the court’s decision, Gabela and Manjankozi appealed the verdict and submitted their appeal applications. However, the local magistrate’s court has now denied their appeals, affirming the original sentences, and subsequently ordered them to commence serving their prison terms.
The distressing ordeal unfolded in May 2018 when Eden was reported missing. The domestic helper took Eden for a stroll from his residence in Brackendowns, Alberton, but failed to return, as indicated in police reports. The Laird family had employed Manjankozi based on a recommendation from Eden’s grandparents, who had hired her previously.
In a harrowing twist, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of R6 million for Eden’s release. The Laird family complied, providing an initial ransom payment of R125,000.
Eden’s safe return to his parents occurred on May 5, 2018, thanks to a police sting operation that led to his discovery in Windmill Park near Boksburg.
The court proceedings, which concluded in August, resulted in Gabela and Manjankozi’s convictions and subsequent sentencing. Two other individuals, Admos Moyo, Nonkanyiso Maduna, and Kholwani Nyathi, were also initially accused but were not found guilty due to a lack of evidence.
Throughout the legal proceedings, the magistrate emphasised the importance of ensuring justice is served and sending a strong message to the public that kidnapping is not tolerated in South Africa.
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