Trinidad: Kidnapped family rescued by police

Aaron Sooknanan and his wife Paula Sanchez-Sooknanan and their family walked to civilisation after their kidnappers abandoned them in the forest as police closed in.

(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.

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