A judge yesterday praised the “tremendous amount of courage” displayed by a young woman who jumped from a moving car to escape two balaclava-clad men who abducted her.
Danielle Wong sustained multiple injuries when she escaped from the back of her own car and ran to a nearby taxi after being kidnapped by two men.
The kidnappers — 26-year-old James Elliman from Norglen Road in Belfast and 28-year old Ciaron Scullion from Ardmonagh Gardens in the city — pleaded guilty to three charges arising from the incident and were jailed by His Honour Judge Tom Burgess.
Scullion was handed a four year sentence while Elliman was ordered to serve five years in prison. Both men will also spend 12 months on probation when they are released from custody after admitting charges of hijacking, false imprisonment and theft.
Speaking after sentence was passed, Miss Wong said: “I'm glad they are behind bars.
“I know the judge said what I did was brave but when it was happening I just did what I had to do as I didn't want me or my family to come to any harm.”
Belfast Crown Court heard that after locking up her family's Chinese restaurant on the Glen Road early on March 17, 2007, Miss Wong got into her car and was about to turn the ignition when she heard a bang at the window.
I know the judge said what I did was brave but when it was happening |I just did what I had to do
Two masked men got into the front of the car and forced her to sit in the back. She managed to escape and ran a short distance down the road before being caught by one of the men who dragged her back into the car.
Miss Wong, who had £400 of the night's takings in her bag, was told told by her abductors “we know who you are, we know where you live”. She said they claimed to be paramilitaries who were “just doing a job”.
They also told her they were going to hold her hostage for three days and demand a £70,000 ransom from her family. When one of the kidnappers searched her bag, he came across the £400 takings which he stole.
She said they forced her to put a balaclava over her head and her car was driven at speed around the west of the city.
As the car slowed, she could see a taxi on the road so she jumped from the moving vehicle and despite injuries, including a wound to her knee which required stitches, Miss Wong was able to run to the taxi and raise the alarm.
Her car was found abandoned at Ardmonagh Parade and the pair were apprehended on the Whiterock Road.
Around £400 in cash was found when Elliman was searched while fibres from Miss Wong's car were found on Scullion's clothing.
The men made no comment during police interviews, apart from denying they were members of a paramilitary organisation.
Defence barristers for both men said their clients were drunk when they committed the offences but have since expressed remorse.
Judge Burgess praised Miss Wong's “enormous presence of mind and tremendous amount of courage” during her ordeal.