Abducted dance instructor, son freed
Woman perplexed over the reason for their abduction; claims they were well treated by Mark Ramotar
July 1, 2002
|Related Links:||Articles on crime|
|Letters Menu||Archival Menu|
Gem Rodrigues, 26, and her son Akeem, 6, were reportedly kidnapped last Monday night in front of the `Let’s Dance Studio’, Woolford Avenue, Georgetown. The two were set free shortly after 21:00 hours Saturday in the vicinity of Eccles, East Bank Demerara. They were unharmed and the young woman said she and her child were well treated by their abductors.
The victim told the Police said she had been blindfolded. Then she and her son were dumped on the East Bank Public Road by the three men, who had held them hostage in a dilapidated building, the location of which she does not know.
“I am still trying to figure out what the hell happened,” Rodrigues told the Chronicle in an interview at her home in Prashad Nagar, Georgetown yesterday.
Recounting the ordeal, Rodrigues said that last Monday, she had taken her son to Karate classes, and then she and her mother, Ms Loraine Rodrigues, decided to go shopping at Fogarty’s store “just to waste some time”. Rodrigues said she and her mother then picked up her son from Karate classes and took him to her dancing school. She said she had to make some final arrangements for a dance performance that was scheduled for Saturday night last at a city school.
As soon as she had finished making the arrangements, Rodrigues said that herself, her mother and her son, Akeem, left the studio. “Then all of a sudden, I don’t know where these guys came from. And to tell you what they said to me, I can’t remember. I was just standing there in shock and my son and I were placed in a car and we were taken away. I have no idea where I was going or why. All I know is that it was a very, very bumpy ride.”
According to Rodrigues, her kidnappers told her not to worry and that everything would be all right. She said, too, that the men told her that they needed a “response”. She said that up to now she had no idea of what the men meant.
“They said `we need a response’. I don’t know what response they were looking for and I didn’t asked much questions because I never wanted much problems with them,” the young woman asserted.
odrigues said that after placing them in the car, one of the masked men told her and Akeem not to look around. They were instructed to put their heads down.
“So my head, of course, went down. And then the driver said, ‘Man what’s wrong with you? Make sure the young lady is comfortable; why not place her on your lap or something, She’s not comfortable.’ And I was placed comfortably in his lap. Well, I took as much advantage of the situation as I could because the last thing I wanted to do was to retaliate and then encounter more problems,” Rodrigues related.
The mother of two said that all through the bumpy ride, she was contemplating what the kidnappers could have possibly wanted from her. “So I said to them, ‘Look. I have my engagement ring, I have my chain, I have some money in the bank I can give it to you. Just let me go.”
“I even started asking them to just tell me what to do and I will do it. I even said to them, take my mother’s bag (which) has my organiser in it. My organiser has my bankcard. I’ll give you the number. Have it. Take it,’ (but) they didn’t take me on,” she added.
The young woman also explained that she was taken to a building, somewhere, where she and her son were treated “very well” under the circumstances.
“They insisted on me eating which I couldn’t. Of course there was no point in me eating when I know I have a starved baby at home (seven-month-old Shamar). But I tried as much as possible to be calm so that Akeem can eat and drink and sleep,” she related.
She recalled also that her son, Akeem, never once cried throughout the entire ordeal.
“He never cried. He was just like ‘Mommy, if we had gone home this never would have happened’.”
According to Rodrigues, Akeem did not wanted to go to Karate classes that day, and later, when she wanted to go to the dance studio, he wanted to go straight home.
“They (the kidnappers) told me that all I needed to do is to cooperate with them and me and my son will be fine. They insisted on letting me know that they never wanted to touch me. They never wanted to disrespect me. They don’t want to speak to me in no harsh manner. They just wanted me to cooperate and I will be fine,” she stated.
The young mother said that whenever she or Akeem wanted to go to the bathroom she would call out to the men, who would then come to the ‘room’ where they were kept. The men would place a ‘cover’ over their heads (a plastic bag) before they were allowed to go outside to the washroom.
“I had no intention of seeing what was happening around us. I wanted no trouble, so I just cooperated,” she told the Chronicle.
According to Rodrigues, one of her kidnappers had an accent. “I don’t know if he was just putting it on or if he was trying to ensure that I couldn’t recognise his voice in public or something”.
She said the man with the accent told her last Friday that they don’t want to keep her any longer since they felt she has “had enough”. He reportedly told her also that they would take her and her son home safely.
They even made a joke about taking me up to the house and saying to my Mom - ‘Moms, these are the kidnappers’ and I started to laugh. Then they said to me that I have strength because most women especially under pressure wouldn’t know how to respond or how to actually carry on a conversation (under such circumstances). And then Saturday one of the guys came into the room and he said to me, “We are making arrangements for you to get home tonight.”
The woman said her kidnappers told her they were going to drop her off in front of her gate in Prashad Nagar.
She claimed that at one point, one of the men asked her if she thought she was going to get home alive. “I said I didn’t know and he said to me that I can count on it that I’ll get home alive and safe,” a visibly relieved Rodrigues said.
True to their word, the kidnappers dropped her off somewhere in the vicinity of Eccles, East Bank Demerara on Saturday night.
“I don’t know where it was. All they said to me was ‘Come out of the car. Keep walking. Don’t look back,’ So I kept on walking,” the woman recounted.
Rodrigues said, too, that she held on to her son and kept walking until she met “two persons standing. I think it was a boy and his girlfriend. And I asked him where I was, and he said it was Eccles.”
Rodrigues said the girl asked her what had happened and she then told the couple that she was the person who had been kidnapped. “The guy offered me the use of his cell phone. He then offered to take me to the Police Station. I just didn’t want to go. I just wanted to get home. He insisted, and so I went to the Police Station and gave a statement,” she related.
According to Rodrigues, she and Akeem arrived at the Providence Police Station at around 9.30 o’clock Saturday night. After giving a statement to the Police, Rodrigues and her son were then escorted by the Police to a city hospital for medical examinations.
Asked how she was treated by the alleged kidnappers during the ordeal, Rodrigues said: “The amazing thing about it is that my son was offered candies. My son was offered his favourite juice. They wanted to know what he wanted. And they gave him the items bountifully. He was given packs and packs of biscuits and sweets. I even asked them to stop the sweets at one time because Akeem has real bad skin.”
“And I was asked what I wanted. They told me I had to eat because I needed strength. They brought the papers at one time and said to me, ‘Look what’s happening to your mother. Your mother is grieving.’ And then I said to them ‘Well, let me go’. They said it will soon be over,” Rodrigues recalled.
The young woman said she was hoping to get home by Thursday night last. “I even told them that my baby is fully breastfed, and that my breasts are all swollen and are really, really painful. But nobody took any notice of that.”
She, however, claimed that her strength throughout the ordeal was her son, Akeem.
Rodrigues said she was kept in a room in a building all the time. According to her, the kidnappers provided a mattress, which they placed on the floor for sleeping. The young woman said she had insisted on staying in a chair outside (in the hall) but the men told her that the little boy would fall off the chair.
“I just went ahead with whatever they said. They said turn to the wall, I turned to the wall. They said face down; I put my face down. I’ve never seen them. I never want to see them after this,” she said.
Rodrigues noted that when any of the men (who at all times wore their masks) entered the room she and her son were kept in, they would order her, not in a rough way, to “turn and face the wall” or “turn and face down”.
“I was never spoken to harshly. I just couldn’t figure out why I was there,” the young woman pondered.
Responding to a query from this newspaper about the rumours that the abduction might have been drug-related, the young woman vehemently denied this.
“At least not that I am aware of. Every time there is something, it always has to be drug-related. Once there’s a kidnapping, once you’re doing a little good for yourself…its never that you’ve earned it, its always about something to do with a drugs, especially if you’re in a relationship,” Rodrigues said.
“Why can’t it be because I am a young successful businesswoman?” she questioned.
“I am 26 years old. And I have accomplished what a lot of young women my age haven’t. And I don’t think some of them even have intentions of accomplishing what I have done since I was 16 years old. Who wants to say it is drug-related, then fine. Go ahead, say what you want but I know it is not drug-related,” the young woman declared.
Further queried about her husband Assad Atwell’s seemingly strange absence from the country, Rodrigues said that Atwell wanted to come home, but she stopped him. She indicated that she would be going to meet her husband overseas since she needed a vacation.
“What’s the point of him coming here, so that they can put more pressure on us? They never asked for him…I don’t know why I was kidnapped (but) it was all about me. They knew where I worked. They knew where I lived. They knew what time I take my son to school and to Karate classes. They knew what time I drop him off and pick him up. They knew what functions I’ve been to. They even knew that I was at a fair two Saturdays ago. So it’s all about me. It has nothing to do with him (Assad),” Rodrigues explained.
She said the traumatic ordeal has left her “scared as hell”. “Even last night (Saturday night) at the Police Station I was scared as hell. I was escorted by the Police and I was scared as hell because if they want you, they (the kidnappers) will get you, and I don’t think the Police could protect me.”
Asked if she felt she could be kidnapped again by the men, Rodrigues said “no”. Justifying this confidence, the woman pointed out that she was held captive for more than five days and “nothing happened” and that if they had wanted something from her they would have asked or taken it.
“And they made it clear to me that they didn’t want to touch me. They don’t want that. So I don’t know if they probably thought…I was carrying a million bucks or something,” she exclaimed.
Asked if her kidnappers asked for a ransom at any point in time, Rodrigues told the Chronicle “no”.
She said she was also very disturbed by a report carried in another section of the press, which she claimed contained a lot of false information.
“I never made any statement whatsoever to the ‘Kaieteur News’. I told the Police that I think there were neighbours around because I heard voices. So there must have been people around (but) ‘Kaieteur’ said that the place was bushy and there were no neighbours. I never said that!”
Police Commissioner (Acting) Floyd MacDonald on Friday last said the Police had an indication of who might have kidnapped Rodrigues and her son.
“That incident appears to be as a result of some skullduggery, which we are investigating,” Mr MacDonald told reporters last Friday.