NALINEE SEELAL AND LAUREL V WILLIAMS
COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith has described the kidnappers of a Penal family as low-life creeps for kidnapping and taking the victims including two children into a forested area. He vowed to hunt them down like the animals they were.
As of yesterday, police detained two men in their 20’s in connection with Saturday’s kidnapping of the family of four and a female relative. Police are “hunting” two other accomplices.
“You have nothing to gain by kidnapping. We will find you and we will hunt you down. You only have two options when you engage in kidnapping; either you are going to be arrested or you will end up dead. You need to make that decision,” Griffith said.
He was speaking to reporters in an impromptu press conference yesterday outside the San Fernando General Hospital where the victims were being treated.
The five – Aaron Sooknanan, 28, his 26-year-old Venezuelan-born wife Paola Sanchez-Sooknanan, five-year-old son Ricardo, three-year-old daughter Isabella and Sanchez-Sooknanan’s sister Roxana Gonzalez, 37, also from Venezuela, were rescued by a joint team of officers who went to a house at South Oropouche River Road, Barrackpore, at around 11.40 am yesterday.
Heavily armed police from the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), the Organised Crime and Intelligence Unit (OCIU), the Anti Kidnapping Unit (AKU) and the South Western Division CID stormed the house and “extracted” the victims.
Newsday learnt Sooknanan was badly beaten and had broken bones. He was unable to walk when he was rescued by police. His wife also appeared to have been beaten and was deeply traumatised when found. The children appeared to be unharmed but sobbed uncontrollably when they were rescued at the Barrackpore house. The five victims were taken in unmarked police vehicles to the hospital.
Sooknanan was kept under police guard while his wife, children and sister-in-law were taken to an undisclosed location. Yesterday, Griffith likened kidnappers and other criminals to wild animals.
“If you are in a cage and there is less and less food, you will continue to be more desperate. I have no intentions to feed them. I intend to do what is required to peg them back and bring this to a degree of safety and security in this country.”
He said there was a motive for the kidnapping but did not want to divulge too much information saying it might compromise the ongoing investigations. He commended all police who participated in the rescue and arrest saying it was a result of intelligence-driven policing.
Griffith assured the public that there were no increases in kidnappings in TT as the figures were the same as over the last few years. The difference now, he said, is it is being sensationalised. In years gone by, ransoms were paid, kidnapped victims returned and “that was the end of that.”
He said under his watch, victims were rescued without ransoms being paid and people were arrested.
This was the seventh kidnapping in three months in which a kidnap victim was rescued and not a single ransom was paid.
Griffith said, “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 not a product of opportunity is the lesser likelihood persons will continue. Unless you are very stupid and sometimes that is what criminals are.”
On the police’s latest rescue, Griffith said he would love to hear what “Fixin Kirk Waite,” Wayne Sturge, and “Christlyn ‘Visine’ Moore have to say now. “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 and that is what they are, animals.”
Prior to the rescue yesterday, police went to Ramatally Park, Fyzabad, and detained two suspects. They also seized a gun. After their arrests, the men allegedly told police to where the family was being kept. During the police exercise, Barrackpore residents close to the house told police they were unaware that hostages were being kept there, but said the house was frequented by Venezuelans. Police were trying to contact the owner, but he could not be found.
Around 7 am on Saturday, Sooknanan’s mother, Zalica, went to the Penal station and reported that she went to her son’s Jhulai Branch Trace home, off Penal Rock Road, and saw the front door broken. Sgts Gookool and Jaggernauth and other police responded and found the home ransacked. The AKU was notified and a search began.
Earlier on Saturday, at about 3 am, residents found a Venezuelan man tied-up and bruised near the family’s home. The injured man was taken to the hospital where he remained up to yesterday. He is a relative of Sanchez-Sooknanan. A translator visited the hospital yesterday and was expected to speak with the three Venezuelans. No one was at home when Newsday visited Penal yesterday. But residents were relieved the family were rescued. “Thank God because we know how things are in this country. I am very happy to hear they are safe,” said a resident.