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DateLine Sunday, 20 July 2008

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The abduction drama that turned awry

It was one of the biggest ransom demands made in recent time to release a captive businessman who was abducted while he was on his way home by two notorious criminals who masterminded the operation with meticulous precision. But police say that none of them thought for a moment that there was a slip between the cup and the lip that ended the ransom demand in jeopardy.

The abduction took place on June 26 last month in the Ragagiriya area when the businessman arrived near his home at Cooray Mawatha Rajagiriya around 8.30.pm. driving his own van. It was a hard days grind for him and all he wanted was to relax at home.

But when he pulled up his vehicle opposite the iron gate of his home things took a different turn. The gate to the entrance of his home was electrically operated with a remote control device. But when he dug into the cabin hole to retrieve his remote control he was in a for a rude shock. There was a thundering bang on the vehicle which jolted him.

When he peeped from the window he noticed a three wheeler had rammed in to the rear of his van. Just then he noticed three men alighting from the vehicle rushing towards him with knives. Soon they surrounded the van and threatened to kill him if he does not obey their orders.

The men were armed with knives and a pistol. One of the men held a pistol to his head and ordered him to get into the rear of his van. Trembling with fear he meekly got into the rear seat of his van without any protest.

He was scared to death thinking that the men would finish him off if he disobeyed them. But things happened in a flash and in less than five minutes they bundled him into the van and drove off in the direction of Wattala.

Fortunately for the abductors there weren’t anybody else who witnessed the sordid incident. The businessman did not realise that he was stalked by underworld men travelling in a three-wheeler taxi that evening.

There were four of them who trailed his vehicle. The gang followed him to several places that evening and finally wound up near his home. His home was located in salubrious area where few people congregated on the roadside. An ideal spot to stage to abduction, thought the underworld men.

With the captive businessman the abductors drove away in the same van at break neck speed and arrived at a secluded home located at Wedikanda Kajugahalande, in the Wattala area. They held the businessman for three days at this spot and demanded a ransom of Rs 69 million from his family members.

The businessman was allowed to communicate with his family using his mobile phone. His wife and other family members on learning that he was taken hostage was desperate to get him released.

They immediately got in touch with the police emergency line 119 and the matter was referred for immediate action to DIG Police Nugegoda Division C. Wickremaratne and to SSP Nugegoda Division D. Tennakoon.

Under their supervision the matter was entrusted to the Special Investigation Unit that has a reputation for solving several robberies and murder cases.

Chief Inspector, O.P. Amarabandu, Inspector Nishantha Soysa, Inspector Malraj Nakandara, Inspector Deelipa Perera, Police Sergeant 28415 Shantha Lukshman 27856 Police Sergeant 27869 Sumith Jayasinghe, Police Sergeant 27856 Hemantha Kumara and Police Constable 56958 Prasanna Kumara were detailed for the job.

Meanwhile the businessman relentlessly pleaded with his wife to seek his release by negotiating a deal with his captors. For the next three days the wife pleaded with the captors for the release of her husband. On the instruction of the police she successfully bargained with her captors and brought down the initial amount of Rs 69 million to 5 million and then to Rs 6.7 million.

The police told her to keep the communication channel open until a compromise was reached with the captors. Finally the word came from the captors to bring cash Rs 6.7 million to a location close to the Fashion Bug store at Wattala.

On the instruction of the police the cash was bundled into a sack and was taken in a vehicle accompanied by the captors wife and two police decoys. When they arrived near the Fashion Bug around 2 p.m they were told to proceed near the Samantha theatre Dematagoda.

They were again instructed to proceed to Waragoda Kelaniya and wait near a Home for the aged until they come and collected the cash. From this point they were instructed again to go near a spot at the Sugathadasa stadium and from there to a spot near the Nanas Hotel at Kotahena and throw away the cash into a waste dump.

Meanwhile another police vehicle that trailed the suspicious movements of the vehicle for quite some time intercepted the vehicle and arrested the occupants unaware of the ploy used by the Mirihana police to arrest the abductors.

However when the captors came to know of what happened they released the abducted businessman in the Kelaniya area. Meanwhile ten persons allegedly involved in the abduction were arrested by the Mirihana Special Unit.

However the two masterminds from Maligawatte area who were the architects of the abduction escaped. The men were allegedly involved in several murder cases, police said. The police are now looking for both the suspects who are on the run.

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