So what do you do first when a loved one is presumed missing and assumed kidnapped?
First thing is to pray because you actually don’t know if he/she is dead or alive. Only God preserves life and only HIM can stop beasts from killing. Don’t count on having the ransom to meet any demands or on your connections in power for a manhunt. Kidnappers, like robbers are usually high on drugs and unpredictable. Trust me, you need God’s hand first.
2) Report vehicle as missing ASAP
Cases are usually treated first as a robbery if the vehicle is snatched. No demand had been made so a kidnap cannot be assumed. Also, when the stolen vehicle is reported, it helps the police be on the look out. In our case, for 3 days after the snatch, the victim was tied up and kept in a fetal position in the boot of his SUV and driven from place to place. His vehicle could have been spotted by an alert police person if they had been notified of the stolen vehicle on time.
A proactive advice is to install GPS trackers in your vehicles, they make locating it a lot easier and they don’t cost a fortune.
3) If victim travels/drives around with his cheque books/ATM or has devices he/she conducts mobile or internet banking with, you will need to call his/her account officer to stop all payments and block the accounts.
This is why it is very important for your spouse or trusted next of kin to know and have such details. If you don’t share such details with your spouse and you are unfortunate to be kidnapped, no one will be called for any ransom. Your account will be milked by the kidnappers even after they have killed or released the victim.
4) While anticipating getting a call from the snatchers, it is advised you record every phone conversation with them. Some phones come with this function inbuilt. You can also download “call recorder”, for free from Google play store if you are using an Android OS. The Reason you need to have the conversation(s) recorded is for court evidence, voice recognition and to playback just in case you are unclear of the instructions given.
5) Though you are anxious to hear from the victim, exercise restraints in answering calls from “unknown” & “private number”. If kidnappers want to communicate with you then it is important they use a number that can be identified so you know they are the ones calling whenever they call.
What we saw in movies like 24 & Bourne Supremacy are real. Phone calls and SIM cards can be tracked and a caller’s location can be triangulated. Tracking an unknown/private number is a little more complicated and kidnappers are aware of this too. (NB there are ways of getting around it but I cannot disclose that for security reasons).
Usually snatchers acquire a new SIM for each operation, this is where the SIM registration project becomes very important if properly handled. With a registered SIM you can put a face, finger prints, address and an identity to every caller. Though some of the data supplied by subscribers can be falsified, you cannot falsify your face. This is why peddlers of pre-registered SIM cards should be prosecuted. I think that this highlights the huge risk in purchasing or selling pre-registered SIM cards.
6) Prepare for all outcomes including the possibility of losing the victim. It is a tough decision but the only way you have control is by preparing for the worst.
We decided to keep dialing the victim’s phone numbers which were switched off for the most part of Sunday. We remained persistent and eventually got through on phone. You could tell from the first conversation that this were thugs, they could barely speak pidgin. They gave the victim the phone and he informed us they said they wanted 100 million naira and the phone went dead.
Professional kidnappers are aware that the longer they stay on a call, the higher the possibility of tracing the exact location of the call, hence the smart ones who make an evil career of it keep every conversation brief.
Day 3: Call Recharge Request (Monday, July 22)
4.19pm, a call came in from the victim’s phone. It was another of the thugs, he simply said: “buy MTN three thousand now, now. Send am or we kill am“.
And the phone was turned off again.
Rather than sending them a 3,000 naira call card, we were advised to split it to 750 naira x 4 recharge cards. The goal is that a lump sum recharge would mean they would need to switch the phone on only once to recharge but by splitting the recharge the phone would be on for longer period.
We took note of the serial numbers on the recharge cards with which you could trace the phone number(s) that was recharged with the card using the network.
*call trace showed call originated from Ihiala*
6:04pm, call came in from the victim’s phone. This time the speaker spoke English. You could tell he was the kingpin or negotiator. He was elaborate. He told us that the victim was in the hands of kidnappers and that he was in a bad shape and if we wanted to see him alive again we should cooperate. He said he would call back with another number and we are not to call the number he provides us with under any circumstances.
*call trace showed call originated from Ihiala*
Day 4 (Tuesday, July 23)
The negotiator called with an MTN number, asking “where is my money?”. We informed him that we needed to confirm that the victim was alive before any further discussion. He obliged and informed us we shall hear from the victim when he calls back.
He called back a few minutes later and linked the victim via conference call. Victim said we should do all we can to get them 100 million naira, that we shouldn’t leave him here to suffer, said he was in pains and had been shot in the foot and stomach. Call ends.
After the conversation, I replayed the recording over and over trying to detect any strain or pain in the victim’s voice. One who had been shot and without medical attention would sound frail and very weak. The voice we heard didn’t sound like one in need of urgent medical attention. However, we chose to plan for all eventualities.
To be continued…
Written by Alan Chibuike
On twitter @bykx4