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May 29, 2007

Family appeals for release of Derek Aikman

Story PictureThere are no major breaks to announce the disappearance of Derek Aikman. Aikman, a former minister of government who was just beginning to reprise a role as a political activist, has not been heard from since Monday morning and police continue to treat the case as a kidnapping, albeit one with no logical motive. Today law enforcement authorities assured the public that the case was being taken seriously, while Aikman’s family made a poignant plea for his return. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Kim Aikman, Wife
“I just want to appeal to everybody out there, Derek is somebody’s son, husband, father, brother, and if they could just please let him go.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Since Derek Aikman went missing on Sunday night, his family has been gripped by emotional turmoil. The businessman called his wife shortly before nine that night and told her that three men had kidnapped him. That was the last time she heard from him and his disappearance has devastated his friends and family. Missing posters and yellow ribbons have been made up in an effort to fill the time and cultivate hope for his safety.

Janelle Chanona
“What are you all going through?”

Kim Aikman
“Janelle, one word I can describe it as is pure hell—I guess that’s two words, but never in my wildest dreams, I would imagine that this day would come. It’s a sad, sad day for Belize and for us it’s hell. And the whole thing has just been like a dagger through all of our hearts, it’s just so, so senseless.”

“If anybody is listening or the captors, I am just appealing to all of you to please find it in your heart to release him. I am very worried, this is day three, tomorrow is going into day four and I am having the hope and faith that you will do it today. He’s on medication, he needs his medication urgently. He has nothing to do with what you are holding him for, or at least just afford him a thirty second call to call somebody to day he is okay. I would really appreciate—I mean we are going through hell—if you could just release him.”

Janelle Chanona
“Kim there are some people who are a little sceptical about this. What would you like to say to those people that think this is a hoax?”

Kim Aikman
“I know, we’ve had all the suggesting, we’ve heard a lot, but I know my husband, I have been married to him for twenty-four years, he would never ever put his family through this for anything. This is real and this is serious.”

“They left a note in his vehicle saying that they will kill him if the B.T.L. Vesting Bill was passed and it is frightening and it is scary now because the bill has been passed. The last we heard from him was yesterday morning at sometime after eight on the talk show. Since then we have heard nothing and we’re just here waiting and praying.”

Janelle Chanona
“A lot of people are trying to make the connection between Derek and B.T.L. You think of anything?”

Kim Aikman
“That’s the same thing we been trying to do, to make the connection. We just cannot imagine why.”

Asst. Commissioner Crispin Jeffries, Commander of Operations
“We have received alarming information. I have received calls to suggest that the body is in the Belmopan area with the throat slit. We’ve received information to suggest that the body is in the water at Vista Mar. All those things have been acted upon. We will not be running around like fowls without head. We will look at our information, prioritise it, act on it. We are not dealing with a sensational game here; we are dealing with a life.”

This morning the police high command call a press conference in Belize City to defend itself against allegations that the department has not been taking the kidnapping seriously.

Maureen Leslie, Acting Commissioner of Police
“We are concerned. This is the priority number one case for us at this present time. We have been following all leads and I want to assure the family, especially Mrs. Aikman and the children that we are concerned about this matter. We have received reports that we are not doing enough, a whole series of allegations, which I can assure you are not true. As a mother myself and as a friend of the family, I want to assure them that we are doing everything possible.”

Crispin Jeffries
“Should there be a breakthrough in the case, which we are very hopeful and we feel strongly that at a point in time we may find Mr. Aikman alive, then we will look at the whole investigation and see where we need to go. But if we should be involved in a confrontational-like situation, we have resources that are equipped and trained to deal with hostage situations, both in terms of investigation as well as extraction. That resource is being readied as we speak. If an investigation should lead to an arrest, we will definitely prosecute.”

Aikman was last seen in Hattieville Village where he had been organising a choir. According to police, the subsequent discovery of his vehicle on the Boom Road has provided little evidence.

Crispin Jeffries
“There is no visible sign on the road. The vehicle, according to the investigators who were on the scene, who were when the family was already there confirm that it was parked on the right hand of the road coming from Hattieville to Burrell Boom, parked on the right hand side, neatly parked off the road, stopped with its lights flashing. There was nothing to indicate that there was debris, no skid marks, nothing to say that any force was used. That is what we are working with.”

Janelle Chanona
“And the note was in some sort of cryptic…”

Crispin Jeffries
“The information we have is that yes there is a note and we are confirming that the note was not handwritten. That is information we will not be sharing that note at this time, it is being kept for evidential value and thorough examination.”

“It is an open investigation and we are in fact opening all avenues, every stone, every lead, everything is being acted upon. You see the people at the table, this is only a part of the many people who have been meeting in Belize City and Belmopan and liaising for the last thirty-six to forty-eight hours on this matter.”

Senior Superintendent James Magdaleno has been appointed the head of the task force investigating the Aikman kidnapping. The police say they have been working closely with his family, the media, B.T.L., SMART, the B.D.F., and immigration officials at the border points and have conducted searches at multiple locations in the Belize District and taken several statements. The department has also appointed Inspector Calbert Flowers, as the negotiator between the police and the kidnappers. Flowers can be reached at 623-2638 or 663-8507, but calls can also be forwarded to 911, the official hotline 227-7489, or CRIMESTOPPERS 0-800-922-8477.

Inga Aikman, Daughter
“It’s getting to the point, where we have no where else to turn, so we are just asking, please, please have a heart and let him go.”

Mischa Aikman, Son
“I guess we’re not really used to being away from him for that long, so if whoever is holding him can please let him go. I mean, it’s not—it doesn’t make any sense.”

A candle light vigil for Aikman’s safe return has been planned for seven at Battlefield Park in Belize City. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

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