By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West
A six-month-old boy, Ayomide Olamilekan, and her two-year-old sister, Blessing, have been missing for the past one and a half months in Owo, Ondo State.
The incident took a twist when police detectives picked up the mother of the children, Abimbola Alabi, following suspicion she might have colluded with a couple, who rented a room in the house where she resides at Okedogbon area of the town, to commit the crime.
But since the incident happened on January 30, nobody has contacted the parents of the two children or family members to ask for ransom.
This has suggested that the children were not kidnapped for ransom but for some other ulterior motive.
However, the case appears to have gone cold after four suspects were quizzed and no evidence found linking them to the matter.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the couple, suspected of abducting the two children, had moved into the house and warmed their way into the hearts of the children and their mother.
Police source hinted that the couple did not disclose their identities or provided any guarantors before they moved into the one-room apartment.
It was gathered that the mother of the abducted children, Abimbola, 23, was the person the couple met at home when they were looking for accommodation and she reportedly linked them with the caretaker of the house whose wife just gave birth to a baby and was preparing for the naming ceremony
A source said because the caretaker was too busy attending to the naming of his new baby, Abimbola was the person who collected N18, 000 from the couple as rent for six months and handed same to the caretaker.
The new tenants were said to have quickly established rapport with the two children following which they were allowed by their mother to mingle with them without any premonition that danger was lurking around.
On January 30, Abimbola, it was learnt, was washing clothes in the backyard of the house when Blessing, one of the children, approached her to complain she was hungry. Six-month-old Ayomide, strapped to her back, soon joined his sister to say he too was hungry.
Meanwhile, the mother, who did not want to interrupt the washing of clothes, asked the children to exercise some patience to enable her finish the chore before giving them lunch.
It was at this point that the woman among the couple reportedly volunteered to help Abimbola take care of Blessing and Ayomide while she was busy doing her washing.
The mother was also said to have agreed to the offer of the woman’s buying biscuit for the children in a nearby shop.
After finishing washing clothes about an hour later, Abimbola reportedly went to the couple’s room to check on her children only to find the room empty.
But not suspecting foul play, she returned to her household shores until it was getting late and she became agitated and started looking for Blessing and Ayomide.
‘Children taken away in vehicle’
A neighbour was said to have informed her that she saw the mystery couple boarding a vehicle with the children some hours earlier.
A search party, according to a resident, was organised to locate the children without success while the matter was reported at the Police Station, Owo.
The police was said to have suspected the mother and detained her as a primary suspect.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that detectives, following the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the kids, worked on the theory that she might have collaborated with the abductors.
A police source hinted that the couple appeared to be from the South-South region of the country going by the description they had of them in the course of investigation.
One of the neighbours, who spoke, believed the abduction was well planned by the couple, saying it was clear that the sole reason for their renting the house was to perpetrate the kidnapping.
“This ugly incident happened exactly seven days after the couple moved to the house. The mother of the abducted kids was washing clothes when the six-month-old boy and the sister were crying for food and the woman among the couple came around and offered to assist the mother to take care of the little boy”, the neighbour narrated.
“She took the boy who was strapped to her mother’s back and the older child followed her. She told their mother that she wanted to go and buy biscuit for them in a nearby grocery shop.
“It was several hours after the new tenant failed to return with her children that she raised the alarm.”
‘Police shocked me’
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard on phone, the mother of the abducted children, Abimbola, expressed shock that detectives, instead of helping to look for her kids, locked her up for days.
According to her, she was locked up twice by the police who said she was the prime suspect in the case.
She lamented that even family members of her husband suspected that she colluded with the mystery couple.
But she denied any underhand deal in the case while nonetheless admitting her carelessness in entrusting the children to total strangers.
Her husband, Lekan Alabi, absolved Abimbola of complicity, adding that he trusted her and did not suspect any foul play.
“It was after I informed my family members that I trusted my wife and that she couldn’t be involved in such dirty thing that they asked the police to release her from detention”, he said.
Lesson for people
Contacted, Ondo State Police Command image maker Femi Joseph said the police had exhausted all leads in the case, including the allegation of complicity on the part of the mother but “we are still working on the matter”.
Joseph confirmed that the mother of the abducted children was arrested as the first suspect but was later released, adding that “we cannot hold her perpetually”.
He said “signals have been sent across the country to show that the command has not given up on the investigation and that we are still working on all leads”.
According to him, the whereabouts of the kids and their abductors remained unknown.
“The mother of the victims had been invited but she told us that she had no personal details of the tenants before giving them the apartment. This is wrong and careless.
“We are still on it; we will do our best to get the children freed and the kidnappers arrested. “But this should serve as a lesson to people. How can you rent your house to unknown tenants?