16-Year-Old Narrates Ordeal With Kidnappers in Freetown
“They shaved my head, painted my whole body with some whitish substance, tied my eyes, laid me in a coffin and locked it tightly, in preparation to be butchered.” Those were among the frustrating words of a 16-year-old boy, who was kidnapped on Thursday 16th September 2021, at Jui Junction, in Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone.
This might not be news anymore for some of you-as the audio recording of the boy’s ordeal, in which he explained what happened to him, has gone viral on most social media platforms including WhatsApp. This piece may just be a recap of what happened, how it happened and how far have the police gone with investigations on the matter, taking into consideration of other reports of alleged kidnappings across the country.
The boy name (withheld), had just taken the biology practical of the West Africa Senior Secondary School Examinations (WASSCE) on that fateful day, when the criminals cooked up a story that was to cost him his young precious life. “Has your elder sister told you to come at Jui Junction to collect some meat for her”? That was the strange but friendly question the kidnapper asked the boy. Before that, the same person had called the boy’s immediate elder sister, saying their eldest sister had asked him (the kidnapper) to call the two of them (the younger sister and the boy) to collect the meat from him at Jui Junction.
The boy tried to play smart by calling his immediate sister (name withheld) to confirm whether indeed somebody had called her to collect meat from Jui Junction for their elder sister (name also withheld) -which she confirmed, because she had also received the same call from this stranger who happens to know their numbers and names.
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That was how the hook caught the ambitious boy who was supposed to have rested after his exams on that day and prepared for the next paper. Without any of them confirming from their elder sister (who was not at home at that moment) to know whether indeed she had asked someone to deliver meat for her at Jui Junction; the obedient boy left for the agreed meeting point.
He was later lured into a black “jeep” and off they went with him to an unknown destination. “In the car, there were four men including the driver and were in black attire with mask, showing just their eyes- that was when I knew I was in trouble”, the boy narrated. “I was made to sit in between the two men at the back seat; and all of a sudden, someone emerged from the car boot, tied my face with a cloth and sprayed some powder on my face. I immediately went dumb-I could hear but couldn’t shout or shake”.
Explaining in a nervous voice on the day of his release, the boy said the car moved towards waterloo and drove for a long time with many diversions before he heard a big gate opened. He was taken into a room, with his face still tied, undressed, his head shaved, his feet and hands tied, some white substance was applied all over his body and was later laid into a coffin face-up and locked.
“I couldn’t remember how long I was in that coffin suffocating almost to death, when I heard a group coming into the room, opened the coffin and untied my face. That was when I saw a “juju” man dressed in a long red robe with a long sharp knife in his hand flagged by two men in black; stood over me”.
With tears streaming down his face, the boy said he was only saved by Almighty Allah, when by miracle the long knife couldn’t reach his stomach to tear it opened with him watching and listening but couldn’t shake or move. “The Juju man attempted to tear my stomach open with the knife three times, but he couldn’t (as if somebody was holding his hand back)”, he said. That was when he asked the two men to take me out of the coffin, saying “we can’t remove his parts, he is not ordinary-if we insist, there will be calamity on us; except we burn him alive and sell the ash to politicians”.
That was the boy’s first miracle of his escape. He was taken outside and tied on the trunk of a mango tree and “the black jeep went out again”. As he was thinking of his next fate, “the black jeep” came back with a fair in complexion girl tied in the same way they did to him and was taken into the same room. “The next thing I saw was one of the men carrying the girl’s head, with blood dripping-that was when I became more scared than ever”.
“Just after that mission, the jeep left again; and one of the men in black came to me and said he was ready to escape with me if my family have money to pay him a ransom of 16 million Leones”, the boy continued his narration. The poor boy pleaded with his “savior” to reduce the amount saying his family are poor and couldn’t afford such an amount. They both later agreed on 5 Million ransom -that was when his kidnapper and savior escaped with him to another hiding place before the black jeep is back.
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“He quickly untied me from the mango tree but tied by face again and took me into a car to a destination that he later told me was his house, the boy said”. The very weak and hungry boy was in another dark room when his new kidnapper asked him to give the number of any of his relatives to break the news that, the boy was alive but needed 5 million Leones to release him. That relative happens to be the elder sister who the scammers said gave them meat to deliver to the victim at Jui Junction.
Fast forward, the 5 Million ransom was paid, and the boy was safely delivered at about 10:30 PM on Sunday 19th September, at an agreed location negotiated between the elder sister with his face still tied. The criminals made sure they brought their captive earlier than the agreed time, so nobody will see them or their vehicle. The jubilant elder sister and other family members saw their relation (who they had feared dead) seated in the dark trying to untie his face.
WHERE IS THE POLICE IN ALL OF THIS?
That is the obvious question every reader will want to ask. Yes, the police were fully involved from day one of the incident. The family noticed the boy was not back from Jui Junction at about 7:30 pm, after Maghrib prayers on the same Thursday-when the unfortunate story was revealed to the elder sister, whose name the scammers used. The elder sister immediately formed a search team to Jui and its surroundings, looking for her brother up to 12 midnight with no trace of him- with his phone switched off.
The matter was reported to the Kissy Police Station on the following morning (September 17, 2021) after all the family’s effort to find the boy proved futile. Statements were obtained from both sisters-and the number the kidnappers used to call the boy and the younger sister was also given to the police. The matter was reportedly transferred to the cybercrime unit of the police for further investigations.
Aside that, the family fully involved the police investigators in the negotiations of the ransom. They even gave the five Million Leones ransom to the police investigator (name withheld) to send to the Kidnappers, through the Orange Money number they provided. The family also shared with the police, the audio recordings of the negotiation between the elder sister and the kidnapper in which the date, time and location the boy was to be released were stated-yet no police officer turned up. All the four different numbers the kidnapers used to coordinate their criminal activity and of course the audio recording of the boy’s ordeal, were also shared with them. Yet, nearly a month since the incident occurred, the same police are still investigating. It makes sense that the investigation is focusing on the two sisters and the victim (whose mobile phones are already with the police) but I think, it should be broadened, taking into great consideration the registered owner of the Orange Money number from which the scammers cashed the ransom and the mobile conversation of all the suspects.
What I see most unfortunate was when I heard a Senior Police officer debunking rumors of rampant kidnaping in the country and categorically stating on radio that “there are no reports of such cases in the police stations across the country”. It may be true that, the kidnappings are not rampant, but there is this one- which audio testimony of the victim has gone viral. Yet somebody out there is saying there are no reported cases of kidnappings in the country. Does that implies the audio was staged? A big no. Well, it may be true that there are no reported kidnapping cases in police stations across the country, but this one was reported-the way it was reported may be questionable.
My question now is: Are the police waiting until more lives are endangered (because cases are not reported, even when there is a kidnapping audio on social media) before they act?
In conclusion, it is worth noting that, this narration is not fictional, or metaphorical-it happened here in Freetown, and it happened to no less a person than my own first cousin. There is a tendency that similar cases will continue to happen until God knows when-maybe until a relative of a top politician is kidnaped the same way the poor boy was going to have lost his life. I don’t think any Sierra Leonean will want that to happen.
This is why I think there is a dire need for the police to investigate this particular case to its logical conclusion-to know among other things, who collected the ransom through Orange Money, who owns that Orange number, on what names the sim cards of all the numbers the fraudsters used in their mission, registered and the number plate of the “black Jeep” that reportedly went through the toll gate towards Waterloo on that Thursday evening based on the victims narration.
Another question that comes to mind is, were those sim cards registered or properly registered by the Mobile Companies? This is where I also think the country’s National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM), which regulates mobile companies needs to come in, if similar cybercrimes are to be nipped in the bud in this country. Otherwise, sim cards will continue to flood the streets for any Jack-and-Jill who may want them to perpetrate crimes -with no trace of even their shadows. The time for the government to act is now, or else, the lives of young Sierra Leoneans will continue to be at stake-and not every victim will be as lucky as this 16-year old boy, who miraculously and narrowly escaped death in the hands of criminals.