SINGAPORE: A Singaporean family is now safely back home after a harrowing experience early Sunday morning in Johor Bahru.
It was past midnight when 37—year—old Rita Zahara was driving back to Singapore from Johor Bahru.
She was accompanied by her sister, two children and her maid.
A few kilometres from the Immigration Checkpoint at Woodlands, she stopped at a petrol station to top up her tank.
She then decided to buy fruits, and left the four other passengers in her locked car.
That’s when two men armed with guns and knives demanded they open the door.
Rita’s sister, Ms Rita Zuhaida, said: "My first reaction was, ’Okay, I can drive off’. But then I saw the gun... I didn’t think it was worth it. I followed whatever they wanted."
Once the kidnappers gained access to the car, they sped off.
Seeing her car missing, Rita called her sister but the phone call was answered by one of the kidnappers.
"He said, ’I’ve got your children, I’ve got your sister. I’ve got your maid. We want money. If you inform the police, we will kill all of them.’," said Rita.
The next four hours saw Rita in intense negotiations with the kidnappers to get her family back.
At the same time, she was also in contact with Malaysian and Singapore authorities.
During this time, the kidnappers had taken all the belongings of the hostages and were driving around.
But their nightmare came to an end when the kidnappers decided to release the family by the roadside.
They drove off with the car and all the valuables inside — a total of about S$80,000.
With help from villagers, they were brought back to the police station, where Rita was reunited with them.
When contacted, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said all the Singaporeans involved in the incident were released unharmed and returned safely to Singapore on Sunday morning.
A spokesperson added: "The consulate in JB was in contact with Ms Rita and rendered consular assistance to her and her family members."
For Rita, she’s hoping that more can be done to step up the vigilance in Johor Bahru, so a situation like this will not happen again.
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