African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Kenya: Abduction that ended well

Posted by African Press International on September 4, 2007

Publication Date: 9/4/2007

She left her parents house in Nairobis Umoja estate to buy snacks at a nearby kiosk and just disappeared into thin air. For two weeks, the parents of three-year-old Damaris Njoki were traumatised, unsure whether they would ever see their daughter alive again.

But all is well that ends well. Little Damaris was finally found, abandoned at a chiefs camp in the estate by her abductors who had at one time demanded a Sh5 million ransom. Her mother, Mrs Rebecca Mwangi, could only say: I owe it all to God Almighty, who has answered our prayers.

As detectives pursued leads in the case, all that the family and friends of Damaris could do was pray. It was prayer that kept them sane and calm and gave them hope.

Song and dance

We prayed that the fate that had befallen many other abducted children in Nairobi and elsewhere in the country would not befall our child that is being killed, she said.

The news of her return was received with song and dance from family and friends.

The family believes the abductors panicked after police started following key leads in the case and thus putting pressure on them.

The abductors had initially demanded for Sh5 million as ransom or else they would kill the girl. They later revised this amount downwards to Sh3 million. By the time they let her go, they were willing to take any amount from her parents.

And while this was going on, detectives had launched a massive manhunt for the abductors and were sure they were on their trail.

Young Damaris left the house in the company of their neighbours niece to buy snacks at a nearby shop. It was nothing unusual because this is something she did almost on a daily basis. Even when she did not come back soon, there was no alarm. May be she was playing with her friends, her mother thought.

But panic set in the evening when she failed to return to the house.

We searched all the places we could without success. One of our friends later told us that my baby was last seen headed towards Kayole estate in the company of my neighbours niece. I was devastated, knowing too well that something bad had just happened, said Mrs Mwangi.

I quickly rang my husband, informing him of the incident. Several hours later, we reported the matter to Buru Buru police station where investigations into the disappearance were launched.

It was after the matter was reported to the police that they received the first call from the abductors demanding the ransom or their daughter dies.

The caller claimed to be one Joseph Makumi, who police believe to be the mastermind of the abduction.

And with the phone numbers, the officers approached a mobile service provider to assist them in pinpointing Makumis exact location, which was found to have been in Kayole estate. However, they could not get the house he was in. Other calls were traced to Simu ya Jamii or public pay phones in the same area.

As the manhunt intensified, the officers got an important lead, which led them right to Mr Makumis house, but he was not home. He had fled from the house after learning that the police were after him.

Police put his house under surveillance for days on end but he was nowhere to be seen. Still, the officers did not give up.

The search was extended to Ruai and Dandora estates where detectives believed they would find Makumi.

Another lucky break and police arrested a woman, believed to be the sister of the Mwangis neighbour. Police targeted her because despite denying several times that she didnt have a phone, she actually owned one.

The phone, police say, had been used to contact Makumi several times. She is also believed to have been feeding young Damaris at the time she was in captivity. The police knew they were onto something.

Mrs Mwangi says that last Tuesday evening, as they were about to retire to bed, her husbands phone rang. The caller said the abductors had decided to let their daughter and another girl go.

We were instructed to go to a place known as Allsops in Ruaraka to pick her. Since it was late, I told my husband not to go alone. We informed the investigating officers about the call and they agreed to accompany him, says Mrs Mwangi.

She adds: With the officers in tow, my husband rushed to the area only to find that it was a hoax. They were almost giving up after spending several hours at the spot but suddenly, my husbands phone rang again, telling him to go and pick our daughter from where we last saw her in Umoja.

And when they reached the area, they were told that two little girls had been abandoned at the chiefs camp. They rushed there and true, they found Damaris safe and sound.

When the Nation visited their house last week, it was song and dance as family and friends alike came in droves to share the joy.

Although Damaris is back home safely, the masterminds of her abduction are still free, roaming the estates. This means that more little girls could still be abducted. Apart from the man called Makumi, who police say is the prime suspect, they are also looking for one Mary Njeri, the woman believed to have dropped off Damaris at the chiefs camp in Umoja and another woman called Sedah Wambui, believed to be Makumis wife.

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525

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