Ken's mother's blood ran cold when a stranger called her on the phone, telling her to prepare VND15 billion ($625,650) or she would "never see your son's body."
"There is no way a kidnapping would happen in such broad daylight," Chien calmly told his wife after the phone call. It was 7:04 p.m. Monday at the time. Nevertheless, Chien felt something terribly wrong happening, so he took his wife's phone to call the number back. The moment he spoke, the other side hung up.
A still from security camera footage shows Nguyen Duc Trung about to kidnap a boy in Hanoi's Long Bien District, August 14, 2023.
Around 10 minutes prior, the neighbors living near the manor neighborhood in Viet Hung Ward, Long Bien District were discussing among themselves about a suspected kidnapping. Chien and his wife just recently learned that their 7-year-old son was kidnapped, so they reported what happened to the police.
The couple then spent 10 stressful hours negotiating with the kidnapper and following instructions to retrieve their son unharmed.
Dozens of neighbors and relatives gathered to scrutinize security camera footages of Chien’s house and others’, looking for "evidence."
Chien's son, often called Ken, is usually on his bike with his friends and ride around the area in the afternoon. At around 6:45 p.m., camera footages showed that Ken was riding his bike around 10 km away from his house when someone used their car to block the path, before whisking Ken away. As the car receded into the distance, only Ken's bike was left.
Inside the car, the kidnapper gagged Ken with black tape in the back, the boy recalled. Sometimes he would pull out a gun, point at him and said: "Do you know what this is? If you don't sit still, I will shoot your brains out," Chien quoted what his son told him.
Ken said he was afraid, but did not cry. The kidnapper bought him bread to eat, but he refused, fearing that it was poisoned.
"When we were on the car, he shouted and told me to read my parents’ phone numbers, so I told him my mother’s. I was very scared, but I did not want to agitate or anger him, so I just stood still," Ken said.
Chien said his wife constantly received calls from the kidnapper, demanding that the money be prepared. At first, the family said the request came too abruptly, so there was only around VND7 billion in hand. But the kidnapper refused, saying there had to be VND15 billion.
"You don’t want your child, you only want money, is that right?" the kidnapper threatened, and Chien and his wife’s hearts dropped. After amassing the money from all sources, Chien managed to secure VND13 billion.
As requested by the kidnapper, the money was put inside a black bag with zippers. The kidnapper demanded that only Chien’s wife was allowed to drive to the location alone with the money. He also threatened that things "would not be good" if he found out there were people tailing. The kidnapper used different phone numbers to make contact.
The entire night, Chien and his wife could not sit still. At around 2 a.m. Tuesday, the kidnapper continued to threaten them.
"I already told you but you don't listen? Hit the road alone immediately," he said. The call lasted for only a few seconds, so Chien's wife had to text him to ask for the location.
The kidnapper demanded Chien's wife to drive to Thanh Tri Bridge first, before leading her to multiple locations, before ending up at the Phap Van-Cau Gie Expressway.
Throughout the journey, the kidnapper constantly called Chien’s wife, telling her not to hang up so he could check up on her and give instructions.
When she was near the Vuc Vong intersection in Ha Nam Province, the suspect demanded Chien’s wife to park the car on the side of the road. He was waiting for her on the road down below, where there were no lights and no people living around.
Chien said his wife took the bag of money and went down the road below. When she reached the car parked nearby, she showed the driver the bag of money. He then took the bag and attempted to drive away.
The mother then rushed forward and blocked the car with her body, begging for her child to be returned. But the kidnapper still drove the vehicle, albeit slowly, saying he would release the boy in another few hundred meters. Chien’s wife refused to give up and kept hanging onto the car’s door, begging through her tears.
"You have the money, now return my child to me. Ken, I’m here," she said.
After driving for another short while, the kidnapper finally stopped the vehicle and returned Ken to his mother. In the dark, he attempted to run away, but was stopped by the police soon afterwards. During the confrontation, the kidnapper injured a police officer with a rubber bullet.
Throughout the entire negotiation and retrieval process, the police were monitoring the situation from afar. Chien said he did not know the kidnapper and that his family did not have conflicts with anyone. As Ken has returned home safely, Chien said he just wants life to return back to normal.
The kidnapper was determined to be 31-year-old Nguyen Duc Trung. At the police station, he said he kidnapped the child to ask for ransom to pay off debts. On Monday, as he was driving around the Viet Hung urban area, he saw that Ken was riding his bike, and so took his chances.
At a press meeting on Tuesday, Nguyen Thanh Tung, vice director of the Hanoi police, said Trung, who was from Vinh Phuc, was much in debts and jobless, so he often stole properties at Viet Hung Ward. As he was unsuccessful in doing so, he turned to kidnapping instead.
On Monday, Trung drove a Kia Morning around, bringing with him a rubber bullet gun, gloves, tapes and other tools. After detecting Ken, he kidnapped him and drove through multiple localities.
Tung said the kidnapping was the first to occur in downtown Hanoi in the past 19 years.
During the process of securing the hostage, Tung said he instructed officers to follow the plan, only moving in to catch the kidnapper once the child had been set free, as acting too hastily may endanger the boy.