It may surprise you to know that kidnapping occurs in Australia, and more than three times per week in NSW, on average.
In the last financial year, there were 289 instances of kidnapping and abduction across NSW, according to the Bureau of Crime and Research Statistics. In the year June 2012-June 2013, there were 307.
One criminal genius even managed to organise two kidnappings – and other serious crimes – from behind prison bars.
He masterminded the whole scheme from behind the prison walls of the highest security level with the help of a smuggled mobile phone, which he used to make over 20,000 calls within just a few weeks.
He is a member of the Sydney gang Brothers 4 Life, and used a woman posing as his lawyer to communicate with the gang and orchestrate kidnappings, murders and other serious crimes.
During one of the kidnappings, he had threatened to take the ears of the victim and wear them as a necklace. Another man was kidnapped after Hamzy was told the man owed him money.
He has spent most of his adult life behind bars and is now doing time in Goulburn ‘Supermax’ jail.
Bassam Hamzy pleaded guilty to the charges of kidnapping. The 35 year old will be in prison for many years. He is not be eligible for parole until he is 56.
What is the definition of kidnapping?
Two of the offence listed in the Crimes Act 1900 under the category of kidnapping are: (1) kidnapping and (2) child abduction.
Kidnapping comes with a maximum 14-year jail sentence.
A kidnapping involves depriving someone of their liberty in order to hold them to ransom, or to commit a serious offence or to gain some other advantage.
But the offence can be aggravated if it was committed by two or more people, or if actual bodily harm is caused.
If both of these factors are present, the crime is treated very seriously. Offenders face a maximum jail sentence of 25 years.
Child abduction is defined as taking a child with the intention of keeping them out of the lawful control of their parents or guardians without their consent, or in order to steal from the child (aged under 12 years of age).
Child abduction has a jail penalty of up to ten years attached.
One of the most famous and earliest known cases of child abduction for ransom was the case of Graeme Thorne. In June 1960, his father won the lottery.
The prize amount was £100,000 (or roughly $2 million in today’s equivalent) and it was published in the paper. One reader thought that he would like a cut in the earnings so he decided to kidnap the eight-year-old Graeme Thorne.
He picked the child up from where he was waiting to be driven to school, and tricked him into the car, before putting a scarf around his mouth and locking him in the boot.
The abductor, Stephen Leslie Bradley, is widely believed to have conducted the first abduction of a child for ransom in Australian history. He called the distraught family and told them he wanted £25,000 by the afternoon, or he would feed Graeme to the sharks.
But Graeme was already dead or almost dead by the time Bradley arrived at his home and opened his boot. He strangled Graeme and then returned his body to the boot of his car.
Bradley left the country a few months later, but was brought back to Australia for trial.
He pleaded not guilty but the jury convicted him.
Although he was sentenced to life imprisonment, he didn’t survive for very long. Bradley died in prison in 1968, seven and a half years after he was convicted, at the age of 42.
After this case, all lottery winners had the option of remaining anonymous, and most now choose to do so.
This case also sparked changes to the legislation, to enact tougher penalties for the kidnapping and murder of a child.
The aim of the provision was to give kidnappers an incentive to return the person unharmed, as there was a higher penalty for those who harmed victims.
Since 2001, we no longer have this section in the Crimes Act 1900.
However the current provision that deals with kidnapping does set out higher penalties for those who harm their victim.