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Spate of Kidnappings

By Terry Joseph
August 30, 2002


PRIME MINISTER Patrick Manning's refusal to answer a question from the media about possible political dirty tricks being the reason for a sudden spate of kidnappings is cause for pause.

Mr Manning was, at the time, responding to questions about yet another kidnapping, the fourth episode so far this week. Around 9.30 am, a young woman, daughter of the wealthy Aching family of Longdenville, was abducted on her way to work; a 500-metre walk from her home.

While trumpeting confidence in the police to handle such matters, his inference was clear: Ransom demands dropping from $800,000 to $100,000 within two hours of the original request in the de Boehmler example and kidnap victims escaping from bungling captors does paint a slightly different picture.

De Boehmler was snatched from his Hibiscus Drive home late yesterday evening. The kidnappers came unmasked, following him home after work and effecting the snatch as he attempted to open his gate, doing it all in full view of his wife. Just six hours later, he escaped from a shack in Arouca, when the bad-guys simply fell asleep.

On Monday, the son of Arima businessman Balliram Maharaj escaped from his keepers when both left him to his own devices while they went out to purchase marijuana. He was being held at Sea Lots in Port of Spain.

In the history of kidnapping there has not been so much bungling in any one year, far more within a 72-hour space, which does lead one to believe professional abductors are not at work here. In any event, not even the Cosa Nostra lays on such crimes with this kind of frequency.

Clearly, if a political party aspiring to power at the October 7 general election wished to embarrass the ruling regime, any escalation in crime would effect that condition and do it well.

Manning said as head of the National Security Council he felt "constrained to not answer the question from the reporter," but his illation was already indelibly established.

Mark you, it is not unreasonable to suppose that, having discovered kidnapping as a viable and cost-effective method of gaining sudden wealth, career criminals moved on up from common thievery to this get-rich-quick scheme.

However, the very idea of falling asleep while guarding a victim or going out to purchase ganja (which induces sleep) during a tour of sentry duty, renders this fresh crime wave almost comical were it not so distressing for the victims.

We should also recognise the Police Commissioner's statement (as quoted in today's newspapers) that at least one-third of all kidnappings were triggered by illegal drug deals going sour.

But if, as Mr Manning and quite a few other people suppose, this recent spate of kidnappings veers too far away from what is normal in such events and worse, if the wave is being perpetrated by political interests; then we're in far worse trouble than we first thought.

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