It all began as an innocent chat on the social networking site, Facebook. It was followed with a request for a coffee date. For 26-year-old Joan Alupo, meeting a friend she had just made on Facebook was not meant to be a cause for worry.
However, what was supposed to be an evening of fun turned out to be an ordeal as the would-be date instead kidnapped Ms Alupo, holding her for two days. According to police, Ms Alupo, a fresh university graduate and daughter of former Tororo District chairperson Radice Okama, walked out of her family home in Muyenga, a Kampala suburb, on Wednesday evening ready for the date.
Instead, hours later, her parents received a distress call from their daughter, with her captor (whose identity the police are keeping confidential so that investigations are not jeopardised) warning that they would harm her unless the family paid a Shs400 million ransom.
Although the deputy police spokesman, Mr Patrick Onyango, confirmed that the Force’s Special Investigations Unit was following up the matter, he refused to divulge details, saying it would compromise the probe. However, sources within the Criminal Investigations Department told the Daily Monitor that after the family received the call, they contacted the police for help. Police boss Kale Kayihura, according to the source, then asked the Special Investigations Unit to take up the matter.
Demand for ransom
On Thursday, says the source, the family received a second call from the captors, this time demanding an even higher ransom--$400,000 (about Shs1 billion). They asked the family to wire the money to different accounts in Japan and Tanzania. International police later established that one of the accounts belongs to a charity organisation.
When detectives went to Mr Okama’s home, they checked Ms Alupo’s laptop and reportedly came across a thread of conversation between her and the alleged kidnapper. It was then that details of the coffee date were found.
The lead helped the detectives track close friends of the kidnapper and finally made contact with him.
A local council leader in Muyenga, Mr Yasiin Omar, told this newspaper that the suspected kidnapper actually picked Ms Alupo near their home.
Among those the police arrested after studying Ms Alupo’s correspondence were three men thought to be the kidnapper’s collaborators. With the search closing in on him, the kidnapper set Ms Alupo free on Friday morning before going on the run. Ms Alupo, who was dumped in Mbuya, another Kampala suburb, then called her family members who came and picked her.
When we contacted the family yesterday, they said Ms Alupo was still recovering from the shock but promised to speak in detail later. However, they said Ms Alupo had told them she had spent the two nights blindfolded in a car.
The police are hunting for the suspect, who is reportedly on the run.
Kidnap cases in the country had gone down since last year following tough sentences imposed on convicts by court. Those found guilty have been given sentences ranging from a decade in jail to life imprisonment.