Kollam kidnapping: Police release sketch of woman suspect; CM lauds police and locals, asks media to introspect

They have also released CCTV footage of the suspects and are trying to prepare the sketches of the accused with the help of Abigel.

BySouth First Desk

Published Nov 29, 2023 | 2:28 PMUpdated Nov 29, 2023 | 2:28 PM

Kollam kidnapping: Police release sketch of woman suspect; CM lauds police and locals, asks media to introspect

It is almost three days since six-year-old Abigel Sara Reji was abducted from near her home in the Kollam district of Kerala. Even though the girl had reached her parents safely on Tuesday, the police — which has launched one of the largest manhunts in the state — are still in the dark about the perpetrators of the crime.

The police on Wednesday, 29 November, released a pencil sketch of the woman who is part of the four-member gang that is suspected to have abducted the girl, and said they have intensified their efforts to trace and nab the kidnappers.

They have also released CCTV footage of the suspects and are trying to prepare the sketches of the accused with the help of Abigel, according to reports.

Abigel was abducted by an unknown gang late on Monday evening for ransom.

Related: Kerala breathes a sigh of relief as 6-year-old Abigel is found

One woman, or two women?

While the police on Tuesday released the sketch of one woman, they are reportedly probing the involvement of two women in the incident: The one who abducted her — whose sketch was released — and the one who dropped her off at the Ashram ground in Kollam on Tuesday.

The investigation team is headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nishanthi.

In the meantime, police said CCTV footage has confirmed an aborted attempt at kidnapping in a locality hardly 10 km away from the house of the Abigel. It is being suspected that the same gang was involved in this attempt.

A churidar-wearing woman came in a car and tried to kidnap a 10-year-old girl. However, the attempt was aborted after they spotted the girl’s mother.

CM lauds people and police

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday lauded the police for the safe return of Abigel. However, he urged journalists to engage in introspection when reporting on such incidents.

Addressing a press conference in Malappuram, Vijayan hailed the significant role played by the media in providing timely information to society and keeping the public informed about developments related to the incident.

At the same time, he emphasised the need for discussion and self-criticism regarding the precautions the media should take when reporting on such incidents.

“It is good to bring the details of the progress of the investigation to the people in due course of time. But vigil should be maintained so that it does not become a loophole for criminals to escape,” Vijayan said.

The chief minister, who was touring the northern district as part of the Nava Kerala Sadas programme, also urged the media not to approach individuals deeply affected by such incidents with “inappropriate questions”.

Also read: Kerala on high alert after girl kidnapped by unidentified people

Social media criticise media

He made these remarks after severe criticism on social media directed at a group of mediapersons who were accused of gathering information without respecting the privacy of the child’s family, consequently impacting the progress of the investigation to trace the kidnapped girl.

In addition to expressing gratitude towards the police and the media, the chief minister also commended the involvement of local residents in locating the abducted girl.

He appreciated the girl’s brother, Jonathan, who conveyed his state of mind and provided crucial information to the police regarding the kidnappers.

Describing it as one of the most extensive manhunts conducted by the police in recent times, he highlighted the participation of thousands of police personnel in the mission.

It is expected the culprits will be brought to book soon, the chief minister said while adding that there would be no compromise against those who commit crimes against women and children.

The incident

Abigel was on the way to a local tuition centre on Monday with her eight-year-old brother when she was allegedly picked up by a four-member gang that included a woman.

She was found abandoned in the Ashram ground in Kollam on Tuesday afternoon. She was found by people who came to a park near the ground. They informed the police after she identified the photos of her parents shown by them.

Earlier, a pencil sketch of a man who accompanied a woman to a provision store at Parpalli 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.

It’s the first time in Kerala’s recent history that a little girl has been kidnapped in broad daylight. While the police were investigating, 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.

Also read: Kerala welcomes death penalty given to convict

A brother’s brave effort

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.