(Trinidad Guardian) After being kidnapped and held hostage in the forest for approximately 33 hours, the Sooknanan family was rescued by police in Barrackpore yesterday.
Two suspects remained in the custody of Penal CID last night while officers launched a manhunt for three others who were believed to be involved in the kidnapping.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith met with victims at the San Fernando General Hospital following the rescue and revealed that despite being bruised, Aaron Sooknanan, 28, his wife Paola Sanchez-Sooknanan, 26, their children Ricardo, five and Isabella, three and their cousin Roxanna Gonzales, 37, suffered no life-threatening injuries.
However, Guardian Media learned that the women, both Venezuelans, were severely assaulted by the kidnappers.
Griffith said while investigators had determined a motive for the kidnapping he could not reveal it since it could compromise the ongoing operation. He said the operation was driven by intelligence gathering and carefully executed, as there were times when the situation could have been volatile.
“We were able to pinpoint where the individuals were and we were able to have them rescued. What I can say is my focus is to look after the safety and security of the five victims, make sure they remain safe and to hunt down these animals to find them and bring them to justice.
“We have a motive, but we do not want to say anything at this time as it may very well compromise this operation that has not ended,” Griffith said.
He said this was the seventh kidnapping in the past three months but there has not been an escalation of such crimes as it was average for the past few years. However, he said believes kidnappings are now being sensationalised. For years, he said families of kidnap victims would just pay the ransom and when their loved ones were released it ended there. What has changed now, he said, is that victims are being released without ransoms being paid.
“Persons are extracted because of clinical operations that take place and kidnappers are actually being arrested. Because of this, there is a game changer. What you are seeing is a positive change in a situation, not an escalation in kidnappings. Crime is a product of opportunity, the greater the deterrent and the greater chance to show there is no producer of opportunity, there is less likelihood that persons will continue. Unless you are very stupid and sometimes that is what criminals are.
He also hit out at his critics, saying it was unfortunate that social media users tried to suggest that because of where the Sooknanan family lived the police effort would be lesser. He said certain people were uncomfortable with his style, but hopefully, in the coming years, there would be no need for it.
“At this time, when you have low life creeps that can actually hold children and take them into a forested area and kidnapped them, I would love to hear Fixing T&T’s Kirk Waite, I would love to hear Wayne Sturge, I would love to hear Christlyn “Visine” Moore. I would love to hear what they have to say now,” he said.
“I am not here to look after the rights of criminals. I am here to look after law-abiding citizens. For too long, too many people have continued looking at the rights of criminals. I intend to hunt down these animals, that is what they are, animals. I will hunt them down one by one regardless of who they are. I can give the assurance that when we hunt them down, we will do what is required within the law.”
According to reports, the family was at their Jhulai Trace, Penal Rock Road, Penal home on Saturday around 2 am when a group of men broke in and forced the family into a vehicle.
Around 6.30 am a neighbour called Sooknanan’s mother Zalaca Sooknanan saying they had not seen the family and felt something was wrong after screams were heard at the house. Zalaca reported the incident to police and when police checked the house, no one was at there and the home was ransacked.
The suspicion of a kidnapping grew as the officers recalled that around 3 am, residents had contacted the police after they saw a Spanish-speaking man screaming and running in the road. Officers found him bleeding on the roadside and he was taken to the Siparia District Health Facility and later transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital.
In an operation coordinated by Snr Supt Neville Adams, Crime Scene Investigators dusted for fingerprints, while additional manpower was called out to start searching for the suspects and to gather intelligence about a vehicle involved in the kidnapping. Hours later, a team comprising of Sgt Jaggernauth, Sgt Gokool, Cpl Bajhan, PC Khalil and WPC Mohammed located the vehicles and arrested two suspects.
As the officers worked into the night, it is believed the kidnappers got word that the police were closing in on their location and bolted, leaving the family behind. Now lost, the Sooknanans trekked several hundred kilometres through the forest until they were found off Oropouche Road Trace, South Barrackpore by officers from the South Western Division Police and Special Operations Response Team.