Eight-year-old was bound, gagged stuffed into trunk of car
Jenny Wagler and Bradley Bouzane, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2008
An eight-year-old boy who police say was snatched from the street, stuffed into the trunk of a car and later bolted into an oil drum, was rescued on Tuesday after a witness trailed the alleged kidnapper's vehicle.
Ryan Murphy, 24, was stopped at a traffic light when he saw what he believed was a boy trying to escape from the trunk, which was partially open. He trailed the car until it stopped in a driveway and then called police.
When officers arrived at the address they found the boy tied up in the building's boiler room inside an oil drum.
"I'm so happy the child got saved -- you couldn't ask for more," said Mr. Murphy, a carpenter whose quick thinking was praised by police last night.
The drama started at about 6 p.m. when a woman in Levis, just outside Quebec City, called police to report that she had witnessed a man force a young boy into the trunk of his car and speed off.
Alec Beaulieu, another child who was in the neighbourhood, was one of many who saw the alleged abduction.
"We saw the man get out of his car. He looked really mad, he took the little boy in his arms," Alec told reporters. "The boy was screaming and struggling, then the man opens the trunk, closes it and takes off."
Sonie St-Pierre said she attempted to intercept the man's vehicle after watching him force the boy into the trunk.
"At a time like that we do what our instinct tells us to do," said Ms. St-Pierre, who immediately contacted police when the man evaded her. "My instinct was telling me, ‘Charge and forget about your car, try to save him.' ... I will always bear the memory of this man putting a small child in the trunk of the car. I will always carry that scene with me."
About 30 minutes later, Mr. Murphy was driving home when a movement caught his eye. He had just stopped at a traffic light.
The movement came from the trunk of a green 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier diagonally ahead of him in the right-hand lane.
"The trunk opened and I saw something move, and then I saw the trunk open more and I saw a child," he said. "At that moment, I saw a man get out of the car quite rapidly and move towards the trunk to close it."
Questions, he said, flashed through his mind. Were there lots of people in the car? Was it a way to fit an extra person in?
But as he looked through the car windows, he said, he saw it was empty except for the driver.
"It happened so quickly," he said, "but the impression I had was that the child was trying to escape."
So when the car peeled off a little too quickly as the light turned green, Mr. Murphy trailed it, following for just over a kilometre.
Mr. Murphy slowed the car and watched it stop in front of a building, its engine idling.
"I was trying to figure out if he was going to stay there or if he was continuing on. I wanted to determine if I needed to continue the chase," he said.
But the car did not seem to be moving, and with the surge of rush hour traffic around him, Mr. Murphy decided to dash home and call the police, he said.
"If I'd known, if I'd heard on the news that a child had been kidnapped, it would have happened differently," he said. "But at that point, I had no idea and I really needed to contact the police."
Minutes later, he said, he spoke with the police, who took the information seriously, having matched it to descriptions in the earlier call.
Police arrived on scene a few moments later and located the car, which had its licence plate flipped to the wrong side, said provincial police spokesman Sergeant Gregory Gomez del Prado.
Police then entered a building and found the boy in the boiler room in the basement, where he was bound and gagged but did not appear injured.
"He was safe and sound, but was transported to hospital," he said. "He was tied up inside the oil tank."
Police have arrested the building's 50-year-old janitor in connection with the case, and charged him with abduction, abduction of a child under 14 and confinement.
Sgt. Gomez del Prado said there was no apparent link between the suspect and the boy.
"For now, it doesn't seem there was a relationship between the two, but we know for sure that the suspect lived on the same street in Levis as the boy," he said.
Sgt. Gomez del Prado said witnesses' calls were crucial to the rescue operation.
"Without the help of the public," he said, "I don't know how we would have found the boy."