Singapore family in Johor kidnap drama
SINGAPORE, July 2 — They were on their way back to Singapore from Johor Baru at about 12.45am yesterday, when Rita Zahara stopped her car to buy some fruits from stalls about 3km from the Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint.
Seconds after she stepped away from the car — leaving her 25-year-old sister, daughter, son and maid in the locked vehicle — two men armed with a gun and knife rushed at the car and demanded to be let in.
With a gun pointing at her, Zahara’s sister had no choice but to unlock the doors. The men then got in and sped off.
Recounting the harrowing episode yesterday, after her family members and maid were rescued, Zahara, 37, said she called her sister on her phone when she found the car missing. One of the kidnappers picked it up and demanded “all the money” she had and threatened to kill her family if she went to the police.
For the next four hours, Zahara, a former TV journalist, tried negotiating with the kidnappers — using her training in crisis management — while seeking help from the Malaysian and Singapore authorities.
Finally, the hostages were released by a roadside, when the kidnappers decided to drop them off after Zahara’s 11-year-old daughter vomited in the car. They made off with the car and all the valuables inside it, estimated to total about RM200,000.
According to Zahara’s sister, Rita Zuhaida, the kidnappers planned to contact her sister to collect the ransom, under the guise of still holding her family hostage.
Fortunately, the family managed to contact Zahara and they were reunited at a police station.
Speaking to TODAY last night, Zuhaida described how she had to sit in the front passenger seat with one of the kidnappers in the back seat placing a knife at her throat.
“I couldn’t even turn around to check how the kids were doing in the back. I was really, really worried ... Any wrong decision could cost a life so I had to be very careful in what I said and revealed.”
“And he (the kidnapper) kept playing mind games with me, using the knife to scrape the side of the chair,” she said.
“I was mentally prepared to be stabbed”.
“It was a very harrowing experience,” said Zahara, who has frequented JB since young.
“I will, however, on hindsight not leave JB too late into the night in the future and if I really have no choice, I’ll make sure my husband is around.” — Today