Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kidnapped! Fodder for your Fiction with Rock Higgins

Rock Higgins is with us again! A dear friend to ThrillWriting, you can read some of his very informative articles:
Body Guard and Close Protection Details
Home Invasions: Part 1 and Part 2
Hostile Crowds
Multiple Attackers

I use his non-fiction books to inform my characters, their mindsets/thought processes, and their action choices. Rock has been an invaluable friend to me as I've taken down the bad guy, and he's very generous with writers, sharing his expertise.

Rock, can you explain the basic definition difference between a hostage and a kidnapping situation?

Rock -
A kidnapping is 'The unlawful seizing and carrying away of a person by force against their will" so it's the actual act of taking someone.

Lots of different types regarding on what the kidnappers endgame is.

A hostage is 'someone who is held as security for the fulfilment of a condition" again there are different types of hostages / conditions. This is obviously after the act of kidnapping.

Read about Hostage negotiations HERE

Fiona - 
I imagine that understanding the kidnappers' endgame is imperative in understanding how to handle the situation. Do they usually just tell you? Are there clues? What are some common endgames? 

Rock - 
It depends on what the kidnappers want. Here is a short list of why people may be kidnapped. 

  • For political reasons - to effect change, to bring attention to a situation. 
  • Terrorism - prisoner exchange, ransom, bring attention to a situation. 
  • Parental kidnapping - divorced/separated parent may take the child out of country or even just State if in the USA. Over 200,000 kids go missing in the States alone every year, mixture of parental kidnap, stranger kidnap, or running away. 
  • Sex trafficking - either direct or indirectly kidnapping them.
  • Express kidnap or quick kidnapping - persons are forced to go to an ATM to withdraw money then are released, for example. On one of my last trip to Rio a coach full of American tourists were express kidnapped. The coach was made to drive to an ATM, one by one tourists were taken off to withdraw money, kidnappers left as soon as the last one was done. 
  • Tiger kidnapping - A bank or other similar business. Normally, this happens to managers. Their family or family members will be kidnapped until the manager does what the kidnappers want, usually robbery of money, bullion etc. On completion of the robbery, the manager and family will be released. 
  • Sex crime kidnapping - victims will be held for indefinite periods, raped, tortured, maybe even killed in the end. 
  • Basic kidnapping - your typical ransom scenario The person being kidnapped can end up being a hostage in two ways. Directly and indirectly. 
    • Directly because they were the intended target. 
    • Indirectly because something went wrong, a robbery, maybe a domestic argument or separated family argument gone wrong. Terrorist attack gone wrong for example. 
  • Religion. 
Each kidnapping has different characteristics; they aren't all the same.

As to informing on the outcome or why you are being held. It will depend on why you are kidnapped. Sexual predators may tell you by beating then raping you. The tiger kidnapper will of course inform the family why they were kidnapped and the person who has to help them.

Fiona -
The family in our manuscript just got a phone call; their daughter was kidnapped outside of the country (or even in the country). From family's POV, what should they do? 

Rock - 
Was she kidnapped for ransom?

Are they high net worth people or ordinary Joe public? Kidnappers abroad who take hostages for ransom will not know the background of who they have so ridiculous amounts could be asked for which the ordinary family don't have. If it's high net worth, then they will have been specifically targeted, in home country or abroad.

Let's say an oil tycoon's daughter or President of a large corporations daughter.

Fiona - 
Yes, let's say targeted. Would I hire you to go in and save my beloved?

Rock - 
No, you wouldn't hire me. I'm hired to make sure this doesn't happen.

Have you seen 'Proof of Life' with Russell Crowe? It's true to life even if the end is a bit Hollywoodish. Brilliant film for you to watch hostage negotiation.

The company will have hostage insurance. Most popular is Lloyds of London. This policy will be set not only for travelling executives but also for engineers and other workers who have to be in country, rural, in hostile or possibly hostile countries.

Once a ransom has been received the insurance company would call someone, like in the UK Control Risks, they have properly trained ex security services /special forces hostage negotiators who would then deal with the situation.

A ransom note is received: note, telephone call, text message. video.

Fiona - 
So the insurance company are the ones doing that kind of work in getting folks back?

Rock - 
Well they will hire the right people to get them back.

Most top end security companies will be on the insurance companies books for who to call.

Fiona -
Who knew? That's very interesting. So would you go to the police as well?

Rock - 
Ok, so for a plotline. I've thought about this a lot, with my line of work, the training courses I run, I have to be seen, so my face is all over the net. Not a good thing really but that cannot be helped. So what would I do if my wife was kidnapped or disappears, leave it to the police, not at all, I don't have to be as nice as them.

Fiona - Your wife must feel very safe.

Rock - 

In fact close protection personnel and family members are on the list of possible people to be kidnapped.

Fiona - 
Would they target your family to get to your client?

Rock -
Yes, just as in a Tiger Kidnapping. 

A technique widely used by the IRA in Northern Ireland was called Proxy Bombing. A car would be stolen and filled up with explosives. A family would be kidnapped and the father told to drive the car to a barracks, police station or other critical site. He would drive up to the gate, get out and run off. The vehicle would then be detonated. The family would then be released. Down side is if the car was suspected, driver told to stop or he would be fired on, he would not stop or his family would be killed. He would have to drive into a hail of bullets so the car could be detonated as close to target as possible. Knowing his family would live.

Fiona - 


So, if you were one of the people who was called in by the insurance company what would your team do?

Rock - 
Well they have protocols to follow within the law, as a service provider. 

Let's take your scenario, my Principal has run off, been kidnapped, police have been informed, but I am also going to be pro-active and try to find her also. 

  • First I'd talk to the police find out what they know. 
  • Talk to the boyfriend, get her last movements, when he last saw her, he may be involved, pressured into helping, bought into helping. May know them. 
  • If I've been local to the area for some time I would have built up a rapport with the locals in the area. Shop keepers, bars, clubs, bouncers, security personnel, managers, tramps, everyone. I'd be onto all of them, asking what they saw, asking to see CCTV footage, any people or vehicles new to the area. 
  • Description, number plates, confirm on CCTV. The kidnappers will have been doing recces (British military term for reconnaissance), maybe even rehearsals. 
    • Where would they stay, would they be in a motel, hotel, slept in the vehicle/s, rented a lock up. 
    • Did they rent the vehicles locally or out of town. 
    • Has there been reports of abandoned and burnt out vehicles. 
  • Circle would start small and then keep working wider. 

Like I said, I do not have to work within the law, it's anti-hero time. Threats, coercion, violence depending on who I was talking to, did I know they knew something, were they hiding something. Maybe their premises was used as a surveillance point to watch the girl. Did she go to school, did anyone see anyone strange at school, parked vehicles, strangers loitering, has any strangers ever approached her. I have P.I friends who I would get on the job to minimize work / time / and to use their professional skills that I don't have.

Fiona -
When you're reading a book about a kidnapping, are there things that make you want to throw the book against the wall?

Rock - 
One set of books I really like are the Shaun Black books about a bodyguard who keeps losing his Principal and then ends up having to find them. Or rescue them and solve the overall crime. Totally infuriating but good fun.

What I often see and read is a plot where the kidnapping is done in busy and crowded streets/places. Guys always masked up. There's always a nervous one of the gang, always a gung-ho one of the gang. It may be better if I tell you how I would do it from my point of view seeing as that is what I'm protecting people from as part of my job. 

If your villain is picking up a high-value victim, plans were laid in advance:
  • Target acquisition Recces (reconnaissance) 
  • Primary route in / secondary route in / primary route out / Secondary route out / lay up points / drop off of follower-snatcher point / snatch point / recce at same day-time as snatch will take place.  
  • Police car lay up points / police station locations / vulnerable points-where could I be blocked in-dead ends-traffic lights-
  • Single and busy traffic roads-CCTV location-any dead spots- virtual recce-long range recce-close target recce (once or twice at most) Rehearsal-dry rehearsal- talk through-table top rehearsal- physical rehearsal.
The scenario above is for a high net-worth client who's family may be at risk from an organised enemy. 

For an opportunist, all you need is the predator to be in the right place at the right time, they may have done some surveillance, but maybe not, depending on on their mental state and who they would like to abuse/kill and who they want, boy or girl, a certain age or dress and then how often would the opportunity arise.


Fiona - 
Thank you so much, Rock, for sharing. This is all fascinating and can really structure plotting points. I'm fascinated by the insurance company. I think that might just be showing up in one of my upcoming books. Very cool, indeed.

If you want the real deal in your plots, you really need to get Rock's books and frequent his BLOG

As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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