The people who found Abigel at the ground informed the police after she identified the photos of her parents.
After almost 22 hours of keeping the whole of Kerala on tenterhooks, six-year-old Abigel Sara Reji, who was abducted by an unknown gang late on Monday evening (27 November) for ransom in the Kollam district, was reunited with her family.
Some college students discovered the girl abandoned at Ashramam Maidan in Kollam City on Tuesday afternoon, and they promptly called the police. The visibly tired child was soon handed over to her father, and she spoke to her mother on a video call.
Later, an autorickshaw driver told the police that a middle-aged woman had driven the girl to the Ashram Maidan in his vehicle, but he failed to identify her as the missing girl Kerala was searching for.
It seems the woman left the scene after leaving the girl at the Maidan to escape the intense police investigation and strong public vigil. The whole development happened around 1.30 pm on Tuesday.
The father received the girl at the armed police camp in Kollam, and soon she had some light moments with her mother and brother on the video call. In the footage, Abigel could be seen grinning at her family members while perched on her father’s lap.
At the camp, medical professionals evaluated the girl and determined that she was in good health. As Abigel looked severely stressed, she was admitted to a hospital in Kollam. The mother, brother and other family members of the girl will soon meet her in the hospital.
Suji, the mother of Abigel, thanked everybody for facilitating the reunion. She said it was god’s wish and thanked the media, police and social organisations.
According to an eyewitness who spoke with the media, a young woman wearing a salwar suit left the girl off at the Ashramam Maidan.
It was N Dhananjaya, a student who returned after appearing for her university examination at Kollam SN College, who spotted the girl for the first time.
She told media persons that she gave water to the girl as she looked tired. “I saw a woman aged between 45 and 50 dropping off the girl at the Ashramam ground. Since the woman did not return for long, I went near the girl. I had a doubt if she was the missing girl and I confirmed it after taking a look at her photograph.”
She also elaborated that Abigel had spoken of staying with some strangers the previous night but could not recall which place that was.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor, in a post on X, said that there were many questions regarding the incident and that the police had a lot of work left to do.
“Relieved that the kidnapped girl in Kollam has been found abandoned in the same district. There are many unanswered questions about this incident and the Kerala Police still have major work to do to get to the bottom of it. The perpetrators are still to be identified,” he wrote on X.
Relieved that the kidnapped girl in Kollam has been found abandoned in the same district. There are many unanswered questions about this incident and the KeralaPolice still have major work to do to get to the bottom of it. The perpetrators are still to be identified…
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) November 28, 2023
However, the kidnappers are still at large, and the police have launched an intense search for their whereabouts. The police told local media that no leads to the abductors were found.
Reportedly, no ransom was paid.
Earlier, a pencil sketch of a man who accompanied a woman to a provision store at Parippally in Kollam was created and shared with the media. The woman called the family of the kidnapped girl using the shop owner’s phone and demanded a ransom of ₹10 lakh.
Despite being apprehended early morning on Tuesday from Thiruvallam in Thiruvananthapuram, three individuals were later released upon being informed that they had no involvement in the kidnapping.
They worked for a car wash company that the authorities suspected was servicing the vehicle used in the kidnapping.
In the meantime, an abortive kidnapping attempt was confirmed by police in a locality hardly 10 km away from the house of the kidnapped girl. A churidar-wearing woman came in a car and tried to kidnap a 10-year-old girl.
It’s the first time in Kerala’s recent history that a little girl has been kidnapped in broad daylight. The girl was on the way to a local tuition centre with her eight-year-old brother when she was allegedly picked up by a four-member gang that included a woman.
The incident led to a high alert being declared across the state, as no clues about her whereabouts surfaced even after about 18 hours of the kidnapping.
While the police launched an investigation, the parents of the kidnapped girl received two separate calls for ransom, presumably from the same woman who took part in the abduction.
In the first call at around 7 pm, the voice on the other side claimed that the child was safe in her custody and demanded a ransom of ₹5 lakh for her release.
In the second call, around 10 pm, the ransom amount was increased to ₹10 lakh.
The caller told the family to keep the money ready by Tuesday and the child would be handed over in an appropriate location after receiving the money.
Meanwhile, the police tracked the phone calls received by the parents to the shop at Parippally in Kollam. The shop owner said that a man and a woman came there and bought coconuts and snacks. They sought the phone of the owner to make an urgent call, saying that their phone was running out of power.
According to reports, the abductors did not use their phone numbers. Unconfirmed reports indicated that the abductors ditched the car and left in an auto-rickshaw.
CCTV visuals showed that the abductors used a white Honda car to kidnap the girl.
The gang apparently told the girl’s brother to take a piece of paper from them to hand over to his mother. They attempted to drag him into the car when he refused to accept it.
The boy used a stick he kept in his hands to beat them. Then, the gang attempted to drag him through the road but he managed to escape amidst the melee.
The girl’s brother confirmed to the police and news outlets that the kidnappers tried to drag him into the vehicle.
After the boy moved out of the car, it quickly left the scene. The brother said that the three men and the woman in it were wearing masks and looked unfamiliar.
A local woman, who saw the boy being left behind by the car, took him back home and informed the family about the kidnapping.
(The story has been updated with additional inputs)