Hours after workers of Inland and Offshore Contractors Ltd (IOCL) joined hands in prayer for the safe return of Natalie Pollonais, a combined effort by T&T's national security agencies led to her rescue in El Socorro, San Juan, last night.
Pollonais, 49, of Palmiste, is the wife of Jason Pollonais, a director of the South Oropouche-based IOCL.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith last night confirmed Pollonais rescue during a hastily called media conference outside Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. He said after hours of collaboration between various arms of national security, Pollonais was "extracted". He said she was in good health and noted that no ransom was paid to the kidnappers. Griffith also said one person was arrested but refused to provide more information until the other kidnappers were held.
However, news reaching the T&T Guardian was that police had last night detained several more suspects, including three of their colleagues. The T&T Guardian was told a corporal attached to the Highway Patrol and two constables attached to the La Romaine police were being interrogated in connection with the abduction.
Reports indicated that the Organised Criminal Intelligence Unit (OCIU) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) had been conducting surveillance on a white Nissan AD Wagon that went to a hotel in Caroni and left minutes later yesterday before they later rescued Pollonais from the same vehicle.
CCTV footage obtained from C3 Centre in Ste Madeleine, where Pollonais was seen before her kidnapping, had also shown two men wearing tactical police uniforms entering a white Nissan AD Wagon resembling the one she was rescued from.
Intelligence suggested that the kidnappers were moving Pollonais around, the T&T Guardian was told. A tactical unit was deployed and the AD Wagon was intercepted in El Socorro and Pollonais was rescued. A Ford Ranger, which was said to be accompanying the wagon, was found abandoned in St Augustine. The two vehicles were taken to the Special Evidence Recovery Unit (SERU) in Cumuto for forensic testing.
Last night, Griffith said around 7 pm officers of the AKU, OCIU, Special Branch, Defence Force and other tactical units embarked on an operation to rescue Pollonais after four days and nights of intelligence gathering. He said clinical planning was done with the use of the Strategic Services Agency and the National Operations Centre.
After being rescued, Pollonais was taken to the Police Administration Building where she met with Griffith. She was then taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital for a medical assessment. Griffith said she was not harmed and was in good condition.
“This sends a signal to all criminal elements: it is not business as usual. What you are seeing here tonight with the extraction of Mrs Pollonais, it is what we intend to do and will continue to do. We can never have a crime- free country. What we will do is continue to provide the deterrent and, with the assistance of the State, for us to ensure the safety and security of this country," Griffith said.
Last Thursday, Pollonais disappeared after visiting the Central Athletic Club gym and some stores at C3 Centre. CCTV footage showed she left in her BMW 5308 hybrid sedan around 11.30 am. Her husband reported her missing when she did not return home.
On Thursday night, San Fernando CID and Southern Division Task Force found her car abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment building at Cypress Hills, Union Hall.
Also on that night, her kidnappers contacted her family and demanded a US$300,000 ransom for her return. The kidnappers allowed her to speak to her husband as proof she was alive. However, they hung up when the issue of the currency of the ransom arose. A source said that the family had gathered the money and was prepared to pay.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young said last night that the rescue emphasised Government’s commitment to support all national security agencies. Young congratulated Griffith and the police service, chalking up the operation to hard work and "a bit of luck.”
As news spread at the United National Congress' Monday Night Forum that Pollonais was rescued by police, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal made an immediate call for her kidnappers to feel the full brunt of the law.
"I trust that those held will feel the full brunt of the criminal law, I express regret that they could not find Ria Sookdeo from my constituency and so much more women who have been abducted," Moonilal said.
Sookdeo, a mother of two, was abducted near Diamond Village, San Fernando, on September 16, 2016, after dropping off her children to the Picton Presbyterian school.
Her husband Mark Sookdeo has been praying for her safe return since then.
However, Moonilal predicted that crime will increase if thousands of workers from Petrotrin are sent home. He also said that the PNM Government led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had a plan to sell the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and bring distress to hundreds of thousands of people.