Magdeline Makola (Scotland)

“Forgiveness is different from trusting. You don’t have to trust someone just because they are forgiven.”

Photography by Brian Moody

In December 2008, Justice Ngema, an illegal immigrant from South Africa, abducted South African-born nurse Magdeline Makola from her home in Scotland, locking her in the boot of her car. It wasn’t until 10 days later that policemen heard Magdeline’s muffled cries and rescued her. In 2009 Ngema received a minimum eight-year prison sentence.

Justice Ngema was a friend of an acquaintance of mine. He’d turned up at my door once before wanting to leave his bags in my flat but I’d turned him away. I thought that was the end of it but just before Christmas, late one night, he appeared again, this time wanting something to drink. I was very naive and let him in. A moment later he had grabbed me round the neck. “I’m a professional at this job and I kill people if I want to,” he said holding a knife to me. He pulled my arms around my back, held them with his knee, tied my hands and legs, then gagged and blindfolded me. Before I knew it, he’d dragged me over his shoulders and thrown me into my car. I was terrified.”

We drove for hours. At one point he stopped at an ATM machine and cleared out my account. Then he demanded I get more money through telephone banking but when that failed he started to get really angry. I was sure he meant to kill me.

But he didn’t kill me. Instead he just left me there all alone, trapped in the boot of my car with no idea where I was.

I lay there for hours, hating and despising him. I found this anger in me that I never knew I had. But when I realised he wasn’t coming back, I knew I had to calm down. By now I had lost all track of time and was drifting in and out of consciousness. Occasionally I’d hear people talking and I’d try to call out but no one heard me. There was one very quiet day when I realised it was Christmas.

I prayed to God that someone would find me but when no one came I prepared myself for dying. I slept for long periods. I no longer felt anger or hatred – I wanted to die calmly. But just when I thought my life was over, I heard voices and somehow, chewing and struggling with the tape round my mouth, I was able to make a sound. “Someone, please help me”, I cried feebly. This time, to my joy, I was heard.

I was rescued on Boxing Day, severely frost bitten, but alive! I was elated. It was the answer to all my prayers. My brother and my father soon came from South Africa to take care of me, and later I returned home to celebrate with my family. No one felt anger. We just thanked God that I had survived. My mother said she felt deep pity for Justice Ngema’s mother.

Because of the joy of being found alive, I have never again felt any hatred towards Justice Ngema, but I have felt a deep sadness. We were both South Africans in a foreign country, and we should have helped one another, like brother and sister.

My recovery was remarkable. I didn’t even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress. I think this is because I knew if I felt anger it would only delay my future and I’d end up suffering from depression. Some people think I’m crazy talking this way but I say, “it’s for my benefit and allows me to face life alone”.

The saddest thing of all for me is that after my ordeal some of my friends seemed more interested in talking to the media than in my well-being. With one close friend in particular I have felt so betrayed and hurt. This did more damage than being locked in the boot of the car. I now have a problem with trust.

Before Negma’s trial I thought about visiting him to ask him why he did this to me, but because he showed no remorse at the trial and the authorities said he was still a danger to the public, I decided it was better to get on with my life and forget about him. Forgiveness is different from trusting. You don’t have to trust someone just because they are forgiven.

It’s hard to understand why he did what he did. He wasn’t on drugs, he wasn’t drunk, and he didn’t have mental problems. He was just a human being motivated by greed and desperation. My hope now is that in prison he comes into contact with people who can help him so that he can understand the harm that he did and change his life. You have to be positive to open up ways for someone to become a better person. If I hate him, I’ll make him more entrenched in his attitude of greed and desperation. I want to give him a chance.