|PEGGY FREED |
By NALINEE SEELAL and RALPH BANWARIE Saturday, March 26 2011
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Parvati Peggy Maharaj...
PARVATI Peggy Maharaj’s 48-hour abduction ended last evening when police found the 17-year-old girl walking along the lonely Blanchisseuse Road in Arima at about 6.45 pm. She had been released by her kidnappers who kept her in a secluded house in bushes off the road.
Five persons, three men and two women, are now in police custody after being nabbed by officers who found them packing up to flee the house.
Although she had scratches and bruises, police said Peggy appeared to be physically well and described the student of North Eastern College, Sangre Grande as “brave” after surviving an ordeal which began on Wednesday afternoon at her home in Caratal Village, Cumuto.
“I am relieved. I have not slept since this girl disappeared,” Snr Supt Wayne Boyd, head of the Anti- Kidnapping Unit (AKU) told Newsday as he commented on the safe release of Peggy.
A large contingent of officers were on their way to the house where Peggy was kept when she was spotted on Blanchisseuse Road.
She appeared bewildered and was crying but was able to trace her steps back to the house, leading officers to where she was kept since being snatched from her home.
The officers were already heading to the location after a sixth suspect, a 30-year-old man, confessed earlier yesterday to orchestrating Peggy’s abduction.
Police tracked the man down to his house at Caratal Village after tracing a call that had been made to Peggy’s home at St Marie Emmanuel Road in the village. The call had been made by a man demanding a $50,000 ransom from Peggy’s parents Parvati and Harold Maharaj on Thursday night.
It was one of four calls made to the couple on Thursday night, following the first ransom demand on Wednesday night hours after Peggy’s abduction at about 5 pm that day.
Police questioned the 30-year-old suspect after they found items that had been stolen from Peggy’s family, who were assaulted during the abduction on Wednesday.
The man revealed where Peggy was kept and police began an operation to rescue her. Investigators believe the other five suspects may have learned that the first suspect was in custody and decided to let Peggy go and abandon the house in Arima.
Peggy told the police the two women guarded her most of the time. She also identified the three men as the ones who kidnapped her from her home. The three men were armed with guns when they ambushed Peggy and her mother when they arrived home on Wednesday afternoon.
They also held Peggy’s 12-year-old brother Roshan, and then her father, when he got home later. Her mother, brother and father were beaten and tied up, while she looked on helplessly.
The kidnappers stole food and two bank cards, before grabbing Peggy and driving off in her father’s Toyota Corolla station wagon.
It was not known if the car was recovered at the house in Arima last evening. Police said they found rope and duct tape which they believe was used to restrain Peggy while she was in captivity. They also found the stolen bank cards. The five suspects were detained and taken to the Arima Police Station. Peggy was taken to a doctor and her parents notified that she had been found.
Peggy’s mother had taken one of the ransom calls on Thursday night and briefly heard her daughter after asking for proof that she was alive.
The male caller put Peggy on the phone and she told her mother, “I am good.” Then the line went dead. That call was made at about 8 pm on Thursday while Peggy’s family and friends kept vigil at the home. Four other calls were made on Thursday night, but Peggy’s parents did not answer.
There were several searches for Peggy between Wednesday and yesterday, led by the AKU and involving the Cumuto police and soldiers.
During one of the searches on Thursday, police came upon a shack in a forested area. Inside was a handbag belonging to Peggy’s mother and other items that had been taken from the family’s home. The items were taken away by crime scene officers from the Special Anti- Crime Unit (SAUTT) for testing.
Hunters, forest rangers and residents who are well acquainted with the area teamed up with the police and soldiers in a bid to find the kidnapped girl and her abductors. Tracker dogs were used to aid in ground searches while helicopters provided aerial search support.
The exercise was coordinated by Boyd and Snr Supt Stephen Ramsubhag, head of the Northern Division police. “My officers together with other units worked round-the-clock to find this victim and we were relentless in our efforts which resulted in our success. I am also thanking members of the public who also proved to be useful to this investigation,” Boyd said last evening.
Police believe the six persons detained for Peggy’s kidnapping may be linked to a similar abduction in a remote village in East Trinidad last year in which the wife of a watermelon farmer was snatched after he was beaten and robbed. AKU investigators are expected to interview Peggy today.
Earlier yesterday, Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski said all resources were being used to find the kidnapped schoolgirl and he and Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs were being briefed on the progress of the searches.
At the North Eastern College, where Peggy is an Upper Sixth Form student, several of her classmates received counselling and prayed for her safety. Teachers said they too were traumatised.