'Victim' wanted money for Trinidad visit By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
December 12, 2003

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The reported kidnapping of a Saint Stanislaus College student has turned out to be a hoax and up to press time last night a 16-year-old and two other young men were still in police custody.

The 17-year-old "victim", who police now say was part of the plan, was not detained. He was found in a house on the Lamaha railway embankment on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after his parents dropped off a sum of money as part of a $1M ransom. That day, Police Commissioner (ag) Floyd McDonald was quoted as saying that the operation "was 100 per cent successful".

However, the police in a release yesterday reported that, "the details of the investigation so far seem to suggest that the alleged victim may have been part of the overall plan to fake a kidnapping...We wish to allay the fears of citizens that the kidnapping was a contrived event."

One senior source told Stabroek News that the child reported having problems with his father, so together with his friends, staged the kidnapping and asked for ransom. Although investigators remained silent yesterday, relatives told Stabroek News last night that the child staged his own kidnapping to get money to fly to Trinidad where his mother lives.

Information reaching this newspaper suggested that the "victim" and one of his classmates, along with their two friends planned the hoax, which resulted in the arrests of 13 persons.

Elizabeth Gathers said after raiding the house on the Lamaha railway embankment, the police arrested her and her entire family, including her 51-year-old mother, an eight-year-old nephew and a mute visitor. All were subsequently released, except for the "kidnapped" student's classmate, one of Gathers' brothers and a family friend. The police are claiming that the three young men, aged 16, 19 and 20, "may have been part of the criminal enterprise".

The group's plan began to unravel at about 1 pm Wednesday after ranks intercepted two of the young men who had turned up at the drop-off point to retrieve a sum of money, which formed part of the ransom demand. Those persons were taken into custody and later led police to the house where they found the "kidnapped" teen hiding under a bed.

Explaining the episode, Gathers said one of her brother's friends, a 16-year-old Sixth Form student of Saint Stanislaus College, turned up at the embankment home Tuesday with the "victim".

"He [the 16-year-old] asked my brother to keep him [the "victim"] for the night...because his stepmother and father does ill-treat him and beat him. The boy claimed that he wants to go to Trinidad to his mother," Gathers related. The boy's step-mother is a lawyer and his father, a Trinidadian.

According to Gathers, the "kidnapped" teen had turned up at the Lamaha embankment home with a bag packed with three pairs of brand name boots, some items of clothing and a Trinidad passport.

Later Tuesday night, the lad went to the cinema with Gathers' brother and another friend, then returned to the house on the embankment where he spent the night. The woman claimed that all the while, the other members of the household were unaware of the plot.

"He said he wanted this money to go to Trinidad and he say he gon give dem boys [the other three] $200,000 for themselves...My brother know everything, but he did not tell mommy nothing. Nobody in the house ain't know none of this," Gathers told this newspaper.

It was not until Wednesday when the police turned up at the house that they realised that something was not right. Up until then, Gathers said her family members did not know that the teens had staged a fake kidnapping.

"Just before the police come, this boy and my [eight-year-old] nephew were playing cards and when he hear is police, he run under my sister bed and tell the child, 'Shhhh!'"

By that time, the police had already picked up Gathers' 18-year-old brother and his friend at a mechanic shop on the corner of New Market and Camp Streets. The police had apparently trailed the two young men from Thomas Street where they were to pick up the money from a bin.

The law-enforcers then turned up at the Lamaha embankment home and carried out a thorough search for the "kidnapped" teen. Gathers said it was her mother, Patricia Balkarran called 'Takea', who alerted police to the teen hiding under the bed.

Nonetheless, Gathers said the police arrested her 51-year-old mother, two brothers and two sisters, one of whom is 14, as well as her step-father, the step-father's cousin, the cousin's wife and their mute son.

The woman claimed that her 14-year-old sister, who attends a city secondary school and her eight-year-old nephew, spent the majority of Wednesday night in the lock-up.

"She just come from school when they arrest her...my step-father cousin, he wife and their child who deaf and dumb come from Essequibo the same day and they sitting down having a drink."

In an ironic twist, Gathers said she too was arrested after she took the "kidnapped" teen's classmate to the Criminal Investigation De-partment.

"I go for [the 16-year-old] and take him to CID. They arrest him and detain me until after 11:30 pm although I beg and tell them that I left my three children [ages nine, eight and six years] home alone," Gathers said.

Gathers said her family was humiliated by both the police and the boy's parents, and in light of the new evidence, she believes that the lad's stepmother and father owe them an apology.

Meanwhile, the mother of the 16-year-old, Mantacomaria Khan, also says that she had no knowledge of her son's involvement in the scheme until Gathers turned up at her home Wednesday afternoon. It was then that the whole plot was revealed.

Reacting to the incident on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj had hailed the recovery of the teen and expressed optimism that the apprehension of the suspects would lead to the breaking of a ring inclined to abduct persons for ransom. Gajraj had also expressed gratitude for the perseverance and commitment of the police commissioner and ranks who worked through the night for the recovery of the teen. The teen had also been taken for medical checks at a city hospital after he was "rescued".

Wednesday's incident was what the police thought to be the first success in kidnapping since a Guyana Defence Force (GDF)-led operation rescued businessman Viticharan Singh from a house on Company Road, Buxton in May this year.

Since that incident, several wanted men and their cohorts were shot dead, lending to a short lull in the crime wave. However, in recent months, the kidnappings, execution-style murders and robberies have resumed.

Several persons who were reported abducted are still missing. In the most recent incident, Comfort Zone taxi-driver Kwesi Baker was snatched from a vehicle, while other taxi-driver Vivekanand Nandalall has not been heard from since his October kidnapping. Also missing are 29-year-old Krishna Lakeram and his brother, Orlando Persaud.