The relentless efforts of Harrismith law enforcement agencies led to the discovery of 19-year-old Stefan Niewoudt, two days after he went missing.
Harrismith teen goes missing on his way to see a friend
According to Free State police spokesperson Brigadier Sam Makhele, there was nothing untoward about Niewoudt’s behaviour the last time he was seen alive by his father at their End Street property in Harrismith.
In fact, his father claimed, the teenager left in his white Volkswagen Polo, at approximately 16:00, saying he was going to visit a friend known to the family, Carlos Da Silva.
From the police statement we’ve seen, it seems that Da Silva lived at a nearby farm that’s situated in Verkykerskop, a 30-minute drive from End Street.
‘Stefan never arrived at the farm’
Nothing prompted the Niewoudts to check in on Stefan on that Sunday. This could be due to the simple fact that he gave them no reasons to be worried and when he left and may have been in good spirits.
Another fact is that this may have been routine for the teen and even if he made no further contact with the family after the last time he was seen, it may have been expected.
Alas, Stefan never made it home that Sunday night. His father presumed that he had spent the night at Da Silva’s residence and coincidentally, this was his belief when he ran into the friend’s mom in Harrismith’s bustling town the next day.
Harrismith search called off, teen found dead
However, the walls came crashing down for Mr S Niewoudt when Da Silva’s mother indicated that Stefan never arrived at the farm.
“A search was conducted with the assistance of the community and on the 14 July 2020, the vehicle that Stefan was driving was found abandoned at the Platberg Mountain in Harrismith but Stefan was nowhere to be found,” Brigadier Makhele said.
A search unit comprised of Bethlehem’s K9 unit, Harrismith police and the community covered the vast area of the Free State town, searching high and low for Stefan and on Tuesday evening, a grim discovery was made.
“The body was discovered at the foothills of Plattenberg at Botanical Gardens outside Harrismith. He was found with a [gunshot] wound to the head, [and] a .270 rifle was found next to his body,” Makhele noted in a statement.
The death of Stefan has now been escalated to a murder inquest and while no foul play is suspected in the death — suggesting suicide as a possible motive — the Harrismith police are looking at other possibilities.