Kidnap and Ransom: five strategies to escape

Kidnap and Ransom have been used as a means of extortion for millennia.

During the 1st century B.C. many noble Romans were kidnapped by pirates but they made a mistake with Julius Caesar.

During his kidnapping, the future Roman “Dictator perpetuus” treated his captures as subordinates and actually insisted that they increase their original ransom demand.  On his release, he promised his captures that he would return – to their surprise, he did and crucified every one of them every hundred metres along the Appian Way.

During the Middle Ages, kings and noblewomen were also kidnapped not only for monetary ransom but also for political gain.  In the 12th Century, Richard I of England was held captive in a castle in Dürnstein, where he was allegedly found by the wandering minstrel, Blondel.

The following century also witnessed the kidnapping of women and children for a growing slave trade and kidnapping became a modern political tool in Italy during the 1970s.  In South Africa over 3000 kidnappings are reported each year and many result in hostage situations.  Unfortunately, the kidnapping of children has become more prevalent and they are often held captive until their parents gather sufficient money from family and friends to meet the ransom demand.

According to a hostage kidnapped by “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia” (FARC) and imprisoned in the Colombian jungle, kidnapping was defined as “the deliberate creation and marketing of human grief, anguish and despair”.  Certainly, the availability of cheap weaponry, recession, trans-national crime and terrorism have ensured that kidnapping is one of the most lucrative growth areas amongst the criminal fraternity.

According to industry sources and K&R insurers, approximately 20 000 kidnappings are reported around the world each year, yet only one in ten is reported to the Authorities.  Whilst the majority of abductions occur within 200 metres of the victim’s place of work or residence, most happen on weekday mornings.  In Latin America, where over 50% of all kidnappings occur at present, 70% of these kidnappings result in a payment of a ransom.  Only 10% of hostages are rescued by force, which suggests that a very small percentage actually escape from captivity.  As a result, our HEAT courses use the motto of the Australian Army Parachute training School – “Knowledge dispels fear”.

By knowing how to prevent a kidnapping, or how to defend yourself or how to escape, you will equip yourself with the necessary resources to dispel your fear of this heinous crime.

If you are a kidnap victim, there are certain survival strategies you can adopt that may save your life.

The Kidnap

When you are in the process of being abducted, your captures will be as nervous as you are.  When the Mossad snatch team were about to kidnap the Nazi war criminal Otto Adolf Eichmann inBuenos Airesas one of the two Mossad agents was exiting the vehicle his shoe lace cam undone and he nearly tripped.  Had he done so, Eichmann might never have faced trial and execution.  Therefore, you should try to escape at this point as once you have been taken to the kidnappers secure based and chained to radiator or worse, future opportunities to escaping will be limited.

Be Cooperative

Cooperate with your abductors but expect to be released once a ransom had been negotiated.

Stay Alert

Maintain a mental clock of the passage of time and use all your senses to gather as much local intelligence as you can.  As you will hear sounds, detect smells and interact with your captors, identify potential opportunities to assist you.

Keep Mentally and Physically Fit

In your captivity space, personalize the area.  Sleep in one location, eat in other and exercise in another.  Try to keep mentally and physically fit and eat everything that is given to you.

Be Realistic

Although the majority of kidnap victims are released on the payment of a ransom, the negotiation can take time.  Believe that you will be released but expect to remain in captivity for several weeks.  This combination of optimism and realism will give the psychological edge you will need during your captivity.

During our HEAT courses, we introduce attendees to the Psychology of Survival.  This presentation and subsequent discussion raises questions about:

  • when it is better to escape
  • how to escape from kidnappers
  • how to interpret kidnappers’ behaviour.