“Mum, I’m kidnapped”

We haven’t learnt how Francalanza has sunk from a policewoman to a criminal.

Last week, a woman went to the St Julian’s police station to report that she had received a phone call from her daughter, who claimed to have been kidnapped for a €3,000 ransom. The woman and her husband told the “kidnapper” that they didn’t have access to €3,000 but convinced him to accept €80 instead.

Now, whenever I have seen films about kidnapping, the perpetrators always upped their request if they didn’t get what they wanted or often threatened to cut off a finger or ear from the kidnapee and send it through the mail. But in this case, the “kidnappers” caved in right away and accepted a pittance. The parents must be expert negotiators.

This, though, did not deter the Police from going to the place designated by the “kidnappers” for the exchange between the kidnapped daughter and the ransom money. When they arrived in Blanche Huber Street, Sliema, the Police found the couple’s daughter unbound and in no danger. Further investigations suggested that the daughter and her accomplice had intended to extort the money to buy drugs.

Darren Spiteri, 44, and Graziella Francalanza, 43, were then arraigned in Court, where both pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted extortion, misuse of telecommunications equipment, and carrying a knife in public without a police permit. Francalanza was further charged with driving offences while Spiteri alone was also accused of breaching bail conditions.

Kidnapping is a serious offense punishable by a prison term. For the abductee and their relatives, it is usually a period of suspense, especially when the kidnappers demand some huge ransom with the threat of killing the victim. But what about instances when the kidnapped is also the kidnapper, like the Sliema one?

This is the first time I have heard of a fake abduction in Malta, but elsewhere they are more common than you might think ̶ and they seem to be on the rise. In recent years, people have faked their own kidnappings for a variety of reasons, sometimes bizarre. Some even demanded a ransom from their relatives.

I suspect that the kidnapping couple in Malta may have been inspired by ‘American Nightmare’, a Netflix docuseries hit based on a true story, which was released earlier this year. The docuseries sounds more dramatic than a movie plot: a woman is kidnapped while her boyfriend is drugged, tied up, and sent a ransom. After a high-profile search, the woman reappears, seemingly unharmed, 400 miles away ̶ and police tell the world the couple made up the whole thing. Except the couple were actually telling the truth, and the real kidnapper was caught a few months later. The story of Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn’s experience made headlines around the world.

American Nightmare.

Graziella Francalanza is an ex-police officer. She has two children, one aged 9 and another 20. She and her partner have a drug addiction. Francalanza has already had previous convictions. We haven’t learnt how Francalanza has sunk from a policewoman to a criminal. Her attempt at faking a kidnapping was rather amateurish, which leads me to think that her policing skills weren’t that great.

Main photo: Pixabay

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