Unity teen staged kidnapping -police

The Unity, Mahaica teen, who was feared kidnapped after relatives received ransom demands via text messages, was found in a Festival City house early yesterday morning and is now in police custody after admitting she staged her disappearance.

Police said in a statement yesterday that Loretta Persaud, called ‘Stephanie,’ was found around 2:15 am by members of the Joint Services after a search at a house at Festival City, Georgetown. Two females and a man, who were in the house at the time, were arrested.

Persaud’s family initially reported to police that she had left her home at about 9:30 am last Wednesday to attend computer classes at Middle Street, Georgetown and had not returned. Subsequently, a relative had received a text message demanding a ransom of $300,000 for her safe return.

However, according to the police, during the continuing investigations yesterday, “Loretta Persaud admitted to the police that she had staged the kidnapping.” Persaud remains in police custody while the other three occupants of the house were released.

This newspaper understands that in the hours leading up to Persaud being found, ranks blocked off several roads in the area close to Festival City, including Aubrey Barker Road in the vicinity of the defunct La Familia hotel.

One motorist recalled that just after 10, as she was proceeding towards Aubrey Barker Road, she noticed a long line of vehicles. Later, she saw lots of heavily armed policemen and soldiers, who were instructing drivers to turn off their headlights. Motorists were told to put on their hazard and interior lights instead.

This newspaper was told that while the ranks were not conducting searches, they were closely inspecting the occupants of the vehicles.

A source told this newspaper yesterday that from the outset, the circumstances surrounding the teen’s disappearance were suspicious. The source said that the teen could be charged as early as tomorrow. This newspaper was later told that the teen was in the habit of “sleeping out” but her parents only reported her missing last Friday, two days after she was last seen.

A resident in Mahaica said that the young woman’s family is very poor and questioned how the teen could betray them in such a manner. Attempts to get information from relatives were unsuccessful.

When this newspaper called her home, the woman who answered said she had nothing to say. Asked if she knew that the teen had been found, the woman responded in the negative. “I ain’t really know nothing,” she said. She added that the teen’s father was in Georgetown and she did not know how to contact him.

A relative had told this newspaper on Friday night, shortly after police issued a release on the case, that the family was traumatised by the entire situation. The relative said that the text messages relating to the ransom demanded by the kidnappers were being sent from the teen’s mobile phone. She said the child’s father, a cash crop farmer, had been in contact with the police ever since the family received the text messages and that the family hoped the girl, the eldest of three children, would return home safely.

When questioned whether the teenager, who will celebrate her 18th birthday in August, had been experiencing problems at home, the woman had noted that the Persaud has been an assistant pastor at a nearby church. “She is not that kinda person that would run away from home,” the relative said.

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