Child kidnapping claims false alarm—Supt. Gerald Jones

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: Superintendent Gerald Jones, Deputy for HNCIB

by Charles Gladden

ORANGE WALK TOWN, Thurs. Nov. 10, 2022

Alarm began to spread among parents all over the country after reports began circulating this week about separate failed attempts to kidnap two little girls – a 6-year-old from Orange Walk Town and a 12-year-old in Belize City. There were even claims that a mystery van had been trailing children, and that a police officer had issued warnings about the van in a WhatsApp chat group. Police are now claiming, however, following an investigation by the department, that the two minors made up the stories about being lured by kidnappers.

On Tuesday, November 8, at around 4:00 p.m., Mimi Novelo, the mother of the 6-year-old in Orange Walk, made a social media post in which she desperately begged members of the public to assist her in locating her little girl, a student of St. Peter’s Anglican School, who went missing after classes finished at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Novelo said that she made checks at all the possible familiar locations to which the child could have gone, but the little girl was nowhere to be found.

“… We searched all over in the school. I found my bigger daughter; she was in her class. I call her … I ask her where is her little sister. She said, ‘Mommy, I don’t know where she is.’ She asks if she didn’t go with Tio Luis. I told her, ‘No, Tio Luis says she is not there’. She said, ‘Mommy, where she could have gone?’ and I told her, ‘I don’t know; let’s go find her.’ I ask everywhere. I even went to A & R. I walk way back by SP, and I said ‘you know what: I can’t do this by myself.’ I called all my family members. I called people that I know and went to the police station,” said Novelo.

She further noted that her daughter is an exceptionally friendly child who has a tendency to hug those around her, including her teachers, and that it possibly made her a target for a woman who lured her away by offering her ice cream.

“A man who told me that he recognized my daughter told me that she was playing in the park. I told him I went to the park and my daughter was not there, and he said ‘no, she is there, and I scolded her to come back.’ He said she was with a Creole lady with a little girl; they were playing, and he said she [was] coming, and so I ran to see my daughter. My daughter was afraid, like she was scared. Maybe she thought I would beat her, but then I said I can’t just go and beat my daughter. I’m happy that my daughter is alive and walking toward me. I ran to my daughter and I hug my daughter, and when I saw my daughter, I ask her what happened, and why did you [go]. She said, ‘Mom, there was a black lady with a little girl. I was standing there in the shop and they told me that will take me to buy ice cream.’ My daughter’s weakness is ice cream … ‘She took me to buy ice cream, and then we went to play and then the lady afterward went away.’ I told my daughter already not [to] talk to strangers, do not take [anything] from strangers,” Novelo said.

The other purported kidnapping attempt took place in Belize City and reportedly involved a 12-year-old girl who said that she was in the vicinity of 88 Shopping Center at the corner of Central American Boulevard and Pen Road when two mysterious men attempted to kidnap her and put her into a heavily tinted black van. But she said that they did not succeed in seizing her because there was an onlooker on the street who saw what was happening.

Members of the public became aware of the child’s claims after the circulation of a WhatsApp voice note that had reportedly been sent to a chat group for parents of students at a particular school by a female assistant police superintendent, who is herself a mother, who stated in that message, “CIB officers have interviewed the child in the presence of her parents and the child was really shaken up and doesn’t really want to go in depth. However, the child is saying that this occurred at 88 Shopping Center that is located corner Neal Pen Road and Central American Boulevard by the stoplight. She is saying that she was coming to school this morning when she was approached from behind. Occupants of the vehicle were two dark complexioned male persons and the van is black and tinted. Presently, police are investigating the matter, trying to view cameras in the area. For right now I am asking all those on this blog or who could pass on this information to alert and inform people to have their children be on the lookout. I get to understand this said van was in Ladyville.”

When local reporters were briefed via Zoom by Superintendent Gerald Jones, Deputy of the Police Department’s HNICB, however, he said that their investigation into the claims has revealed that both stories were fabricated. He went on to say that the police plan to interview the parents of the children, and if police decide to bring charges in connection with the incidents, those charges will be levied against the parents.

Additionally, he said that reports of a mysterious black van in the city—accompanied by images of the van that were circulated on social media to alert parents—were also found to be false.

“[As] I said, we have conducted investigations that have been proven to us not to be true, and we just want to assure the general public to remain alert still. In whatever a situation may occur in terms of reports, bring it forward to the police, and we will investigate all these matters and give assurance to the public,” said Jones.

Jones said that the Police Department, by means of media platforms, as well as community policing efforts that will include visits to schools, will be spreading awareness to young ones and the public about actual abduction cases.