How army, police tracked kidnappers of 4-year-old boy

Friday November 15 2019

Rescued. Timothy Okot while still a baby in 2016. PHOTO BY BILL OKETCH

On October 25, four-year-old Timothy Okot was reported missing from home in Obutowelo Village, Ojwina Division in Lira Municipality.
Okot had left school at around 5pm but according to his father, Mr Zion Odongo, he was informed about the child’s disappearance about three hours later.
“At 8pm, my wife told me the child was missing and immediately we launched a search in the neighbourhood but there was no clue. We sent announcements on radio and in all churches but we could not trace his whereabouts,” he says.
The family then asked the public to join them in prayers. Six days later, a man calling himself Prophet Robert, who claimed to be from Mbarara, telephoned Mr Odongo and said he would help them in their prayers.
“He asked me to go to a place where my son used to play. Since I was so desperate and confused, I went to a water tap at our home. Upon arrival, he told me I had gone to a wrong place,” Mr Odongo explains.
The ‘prophet’ then directed Mr Odongo to a home in the neighbourhood with three houses and a mango tree where the latter found the child’s school bag.
“When I entered the unfinished building, I saw my child’s bag and nearly collapsed,” Mr Odongo narrates.
The ‘man of God’ then told Mr Odongo never to show the bag to anybody, assuring him that the boy would be found the following day. It was at this point the kidnappers started demanding for ransom to free the child.
They started with Shs600,000 and then Shs1.2 million. This prompted the family to report the matter to police. No sooner had they reported to police than the kidnappers started asking for Shs30 million. Later, they reduced to Shs27 million. They even threatened to kill the child if the ransom was not paid.
“They abused me when I said I could only raise Shs5 million,” Mr Odongo says. Officers from police, UPDF, and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) then told the family to keep the kidnap a secret as they searched for the missing boy.
Security agencies, with the help of sophisticated technology, began to track the kidnappers. One of the suspects, who happens to be Mr Odongo’s neighbour, was arrested on Tuesday. The suspect led the security agencies to Akalo Sub-county, Kole District, where the child was found kept in a house.
Mr George Obia, the Lira District police commander, on Wednesday said the suspect was arrested based on the analysis of the phone calls he made and SIM cards he used.
“Indeed when we arrested him, he confessed he was the one who kidnapped the child and handed him over to his cousin sister in Akalo Sub-county. So far, we have two suspects in our custody,” he said.
The child, who was reunited with his family on Wednesday, is currently receiving treatment at a clinic in Lira Town after he tested positive for malaria. Mr Milton Odongo, the resident district commissioner, appealed to the general public to be security conscious and not to allow children to move alone.