Marleen Konings: The Missing Dutch Girl
Marleen Konings was supposed to arrive in Cape Town on December 29, 2003.
A third year student in multimedia at the Saxion Hogeschool in Enschede, the Netherlands, 24-year-old Marleen had come to South Africa as part of an exchange program in August. Towards the end of December she had finished her five-month internship at the Peninsula Technicon, working on a film about AIDS awareness. The Netherlands-South Africa Exchange has brought some 12,000 students to South Africa over the past two decades.
Marleen and another student, Eva Schaefers, decided to tour along the picturesque Garden Route in the southeastern Cape. Eva received news from Germany, however, that her mother had taken ill, so her vacation ended prematurely. Marleen drove her to the airport on December 21.
On December 28, Marleen phoned one of her friends in Cape Town, ending the conversation with "See you tomorrow," according to the Cape Times of January 9, 2004. But tomorrow came and did not bring Marleen with it. Winneke Lobeek was worried. The two had been friends for eight years, and it was completely unlike Marleen not to call. Attempts to reach her cellular phone met with failure.
It seemed that Marleen Konings was missing.
On December 31, Winneke contacted the police. It was not a good time to disappear.
Inspector Herman van Deventer got the docket. He discovered that Marleen had reserved a bed at a backpackers lodge in Cape Town for the 29th, and had already paid the deposit. She was last seen in Mossel Bay, in the company of a man by the name of Rob Cowley, and the two were believed to have left in her hired car in a westward direction. This had been on the 26th, already five days ago.
On January 2, Marleen's father, Edwin, arrived in South Africa from Amsterdam to help find his eldest daughter.
Due to the holidays, the newspapers only published Marleen's details on January 3. The Weekend Argus stated that she "was last seen wearing blue jeans and a black T-shirt. She has a lip ring in the middle of her lower lip and two earrings in each ear. She also wears a toe ring and bracelets." It mentioned that she was driving a silver Toyota Tazz and provided the registration number. Still, by the time the public was able to read her description, she'd been missing for a week.
It did bear some fruit, though, as a doctor from Riversdale—55 miles west from Mossel Bay—contacted the police. Apparently, he had treated Marleen on December 27 for food poisoning.
Another person phoning from the same town claimed to have seen the girl at a gas station. She had been in the company of two men and had appeared well and uncoerced.
Marleen's mother, Jose, and her younger sister, Lotte, flew in from the Netherlands to join in the search. The Konings family, Winneke Lobeek and other friends circulated flyers with Marleen's photo on.
Meanwhile, the police had to make sense of conflicting information. Marleen was apparently sighted on Sunday, January 4, in Botrivier, a further 130 miles west from Riversdale, and still directly along the N2 national road to Cape Town. However, on Monday, her credit card had been used in Port Elizabeth, which is 225 miles east of Mossel Bay. Of course, it was not impossible that her credit card could've been stolen.
On Tuesday, January 6, someone phoned the police to say Marleen was seen in Betty's Bay, a small seaside town along the R43 turnoff from the N2 at Botrivier. Investigators were hopeful that Marleen was indeed on her way to Cape Town, since this road would eventually get her there by meandering all along the coastline.
Still, it did not explain why no one had heard from her.
At this point, police became reluctant to divulge details to the press, since they felt the "coverage overseas sensationalized the information [leading to] misunderstandings and ... unrealistic expectations," according to Die Burger of January 8, 2004.
Winneke told the press that they weren't coping particularly well. "One day is better than the other. One minute is better than the other. We all cry a lot," Independent On-Line reported on January 8, 2004.
"We just want her back."