Kidnappers demand N5m for safe return of my daughter — Distraught Lagos trader

Lagos trader Mrs. Stella Timothy tells TEMITOPE ADETUNJI how her 14-year-old daughter, Princess Halimat Tajudeen, went missing after helping her withdraw N23,000 from the ATM

Can you narrate what happened to your daughter?

My name is Mrs. Stella Timothy. I reside in Surulere Aguda, Lagos. I hail from Edo State. My daughter is missing. Her name is Princess Halimat Tajudeen. She’s 14 years old, fair in complexion, very friendly, and loves reading. She’s an SSS2 student.

When was the last time you saw her?

The last time I saw her was on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at 5:15 pm. That was the last time I saw her.

What happened?

She came back from school and returned home. So she came to the shop where I sell things. I sell biscuits, pure water, and sweets for little children. So when she returned from school, she came to where I sell my goods. So I asked her to go and withdraw money from the bank, Fidelity Bank, which is just a street away from our house. I gave her the ATM card and she left. At about 6:35 pm, if I’m not mistaken, I got the alert of the exact money I asked her to withdraw from the ATM. After I saw the alert, I believed she was now on her way back. I waited and waited till past seven o’clock in the evening.

I just concluded that she went home straight to do the house chores before coming back to meet me. But, as I didn’t see her, I wasn’t comfortable anymore. I went to the house, and she was nowhere to be found. I was shouting all over the place calling out for her name but there was no response. I asked the neighbors around, they said no, they didn’t see her. I rushed down to the bank to the ATM stand thinking maybe was there, but she was not there.

Nobody was there, even the security guys were not there. I quickly came back home thinking maybe she went through another route and we had missed each other along the way, I went back to where I was selling too, but she was not there. Then I decided to check on her classmate because they do go home and come back together, and they said the last time they saw her was when they were in school.

How much was the money she went to withdraw?

The money was twenty-three thousand naira. She withdrew it twice. At first, the twenty thousand naira, then the second time, three thousand naira, which was the only money I had in that account.

So, can you describe what she was wearing the last time you saw her?

She was wearing a black gown with a touch of white, and she had a low-cut hairstyle.

Does she have any medical condition?

Not at all.

Was there anything unusual about her behavior leading up to her disappearance?

Nothing unusual.

Did she mention any plans to go somewhere?

None that I know of. In fact, I was the one asking if she would go to school the other day so that we could go to church because every Thursday we always have our deliverance and counseling service. She said she would be going to school.

Do you think she’s in a relationship with a boy?

Not at all, she is still young, and she is not the wayward type of girl.

Do you suspect she might be having issues with someone?

No, she doesn’t have issues with anybody. I haven’t seen her confront anyone or engage in a physical fight with anyone. She is a calm and easygoing girl. She is well-trained.

Is she active on social media platforms or does she own a phone?

She doesn’t have a phone. The small phone we got for her was stolen from the shop. Even before we gave her the small phone, she hadn’t been using any phone.

Is she your only child?

She’s my second child. I have just two children, a boy and a girl.

What’s her daily routine like, can you describe it?

On days when there is no school, she’ll sit in the room, as I said earlier she loves reading. At some point, I’ll be the one to tell her that she’s straining her sight and that what she has read is enough. So she’s either at home or with me. She doesn’t have a specific place she goes to. None that I know of, and when there’s school, she comes home, does house chores, and then comes down to the shop.

What about your husband?

What does he do? He’s a teacher, and I’m no longer with the father (father of the child). I’ve been a single mother for a very long time. I brought Princess up myself.

How many years have you been separated?

It’s been 10 years.

Is he aware of the incident?

Yes, we’re together in this, and we’ve been looking for her together.

Have you reported your daughter missing to the police?

 Yes, I did that very night around 10 pm. They said I should come back after 24 hours. Then, the second day, I rushed down there, they gave me an IPO, and I lodged my complaint and all that. Since then, they haven’t done anything. The only time the IPO called me was to ask if there was any update, and I told him there was no update.

How have you been feeling since the incident occurred?

I feel like a deflated balloon pricked by a pin. You can’t imagine. That’s how I’ve felt for the past seven days. I’ve barely filled my stomach with water. Meanwhile, on Thursday, I received a call from a hidden number. I picked up the call, and they seemed to think I was joking with them, asking if I could hear them. I confirmed, and then a thick voice asked, “Is it you who has the girl who’s here?” I replied yes, as I already suspected they were referring to my daughter. Then he said in pidgin English, “Now, we’re coming.” Immediately after, he hung up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach them as they were using a hidden number. Hoping for their callback, I waited all night, but no call came. The following morning, there was still no call. On Friday, after reporting to the station, I returned home. Around 2 pm, the call came again, and the voice said, “Are you joking with me?” I assured him I wasn’t, and asked what they wanted.

He responded, “Now, you’ll do what we want. Do you want to speak to your daughter?” Upon my yes response, I heard my daughter crying, “Mummy, please help me, I don’t know where I am.” Before I could say more, they took the phone from her, and the man’s voice came back on, then he hung up once again. Around 8 am on Saturday, the call came through once more, and he said, “Now you don’t want to cooperate.” I asked him to speak clearly to me as I had been waiting for his call, and he stated, “Our demanded money is N5m.” Fear gripped me instantly, and I confessed I didn’t have that money.

He retorted, “You don’t have money, right?” and ended the call. A few minutes later, another call came, this time from an elderly voice. I had to record the conversation. He confirmed my identity and asked if I was the girl’s mother. After saying yes, he inquired if I had N5m, to which I replied no. He then reduced the demand to one million naira. I expressed my inability to meet that demand, but he gave me six hours to gather the money, threatening that if I failed, I wouldn’t see my daughter again. He instructed me to prepare to receive an account number, which he would provide in a subsequent call.

He hung up, and I grabbed a pen and paper. Upon his next call, he dictated an account number, omitting the bank name. When I questioned which bank, he asked when I would have the money and then probed about my available funds. Out of fear, I lied and said I had a hundred thousand naira, even though I had nothing. He instructed me to inform him when I was ready, promising to supply the bank’s name then. That’s when he ended the call. Since then, there’s been no further communication. Since my daughter went missing, I’ve felt scared and sad.

 Every day, I’m terrified. I don’t know if my daughter is still alive because they haven’t called back since then. I maintain hope and faith in God, but the fear persists. The only assistance I need now is for my daughter to return alive. I haven’t slept in days. I can’t eat. I can’t focus on anything. I’m on the verge of losing my sanity. It’s been incredibly challenging for me, and I desperately need help to locate my daughter.

Source: The Punch


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