Canada treating disappearance of Quebec woman in Burkina Faso as kidnapping


The disappearance of a Quebec woman in Burkina Faso is being treated as a kidnapping, Canadian officials said Sunday.

Edith Blais, 34, and her Italian travel companion, Luca Tacchetto, 30, were last heard from in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso on Dec. 15.

The office of International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told Radio-Canada that despite not having any confirmation, they are approaching the case as they would a kidnapping. Her office declined further comment. 

Global Affairs Canada said it is treating Blais’s case as « extremely high priority. »

Blais’s family says she and Tacchetto​ were planning on driving to Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, where they intended to stay for a few days and possibly sell their car before heading to neighbouring Togo.

Jocelyne Bergeron, Blais’s mother, told Radio-Canada that there has been an immense outpouring since her family launched an online effort to locate her daughter.

« In this sadness, in this anguish, we feel supported, as we never thought we could be supported, » said Bergeron. « It’s amazing. Thank you to everyone who gets involved or who has positive thoughts for us. »

Bergeron said all the family has come together to help during this difficult time.

Jocelyne Bergeron, mother of Edith Blais, said her family and friends have come together to help in this search effort. (Radio-Canada)

Bergeron, last spoke with her daughter on Dec. 13 when she was in Mali.

She said Luca’s father spoke with them after they had arrived in Burkina Faso two days later.

Blais’s sister, Mélanie Bergeron Blais, added that the family is circulating recent photos of her online and trying to track her cellphone and iPad in collaboration with the Sûreté du Québec and RCMP.

She said she’s been satisfied with the response from Ottawa so far, including the liaison from the minister’s office. 

« They were touched by the disappearance of Edith, » she said. « I think it’s something they took to heart. »

Minister Bibeau is herself from Sherbrooke, Que., where the family lives, and as the representative for Compton—Stanstead, is the family’s MP.

Travel advisory in effect

Canada has an active travel advisory for Burkina Faso, recommending all non-essential travel be avoided due to the threat of terrorism. Canada also advises to avoid all travel in the area bordering Togo due to the risk of banditry and kidnapping.

Authorities in Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency earlier this week following terrorist attacks in the northern part of the country.

In its travel advisory, Canada notes this means an increase of security checkpoints and curfews.


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3 people involved in naked kidnapping have rare, psychotic disorder: court


Court has heard that three people involved in a bizarre naked kidnapping case south of Edmonton last year suffered from a rare, shared psychotic disorder.

A courtroom in Leduc was packed with supporters as a judge heard a joint recommendation from lawyers for a conditional sentence.

Court has heard the group was not affected by alcohol or drugs but believed it was the end of the world and wanted to save their neighbours when they forced them from their home last November.

Two women and one man, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, earlier pleaded guilty to unlawful confinement.

One of the women, the only one dressed at the time of the kidnapping, also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.

Her teenage daughters were also arrested but not charged.

Strange things happened

An agreed statement of facts says the group, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, had gathered at a home near Leduc on Nov. 2, 1017.

The mother, who was then 35, had taken her daughters there to visit her 27-year old nephew and his 30-year old wife.

Strange things happened over the next three days.

The group didn’t leave the house and barely ate any food. One of the teens heard screaming and banging and saw ashes in the air.

Some of the people hid in a bedroom or bathroom because they believed they were in danger from wicked people or demons.

They also believed that the Great Tribulation had happened and Nov. 6 would be Armageddon. So they rushed off to find safety and save a neighbouring family.

But four who were naked didn’t have time to put clothes on.

« They had to leave right away because it was unsafe, » said the court document.

They were in such a hurry that after piling into a BMW SUV, they drove through the garage door. 

Chant « Jehovah » 10 times

They then forced the neighbours — a man, his adult daughter and her six-week-old son — out of their house and into the snow without shoes.

The woman and her baby were put in the back seat of the SUV and the man was put in the trunk.

He was ordered to chant « Jehovah » 10 times and the group also chanted « Jehovah » as the vehicle sped down roads and through a red light on the way to nearby Nisku.

The man in the trunk was able to jump out when the vehicle slowed, because the trunk’s latch hadn’t shut properly.

His daughter was also able to get out with her child, although her hand was slammed in the door as she made the attempt.

 A passing truck stopped to help the family and they climbed inside. But the SUV then rammed the truck from behind.

The woman and her baby were thrown into the truck’s dash but not injured. The SUV then went into a ditch.

When RCMP arrived, the group were chanting and refusing to get out of the vehicle. They clung to each other and the SUV.

One of the teens believed the police « were monsters who would kill them, » said the document.

Officers said the group displayed extreme strength. Two were pepper sprayed but seemed unaffected. The three adults were also shot with Tasers several times.

One also slid under the SUV and had to be dragged out with a strap. 

The neighbours later told Mounties the group seems « demonized » and « obviously not in their right minds. »


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They beat their captives with a fish carving, and they played Russian roulette. Court documents detail bizarre Toronto kidnapping


“I’m (going to) untie your bro,” mumbled the teenaged kidnapper to his prisoner’s brother on the other end of the phone.

“Get the three (thousand dollars) and then we’re gonna meet, okay? Fam, I, I … I trust you fam. I’ll put one in this kid early morning tomorrow if nothing is going on fam.”

The captor, who wasn’t a family member, wanted $10,000 to release his two 16-year-old abductees, unaware Toronto police were listening and recording the April 20, 2016 phone call. Hours earlier, police obtained an emergency wiretap to capture the ransom negotiations and money exchange details.

It’s an urban crime tale featuring scenes straight out of a Quentin Tarantino crime movie; they include a condo shootout, a game of Russian roulette and forced sex acts.

It’s also a case underscoring the intractable problem of uncooperative witnesses, even when they’ve been victimized, and the challenges they pose for police and prosecutors trying to bring perpetrators to justice.

Earlier this fall, Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy convicted the 17-year-old ringleader, identified in court as T.G., of kidnapping, firearms and drug trafficking.

While he can’t be identified because of his age, Molloy found him to be a gun-toting, street-level drug dealer with a taste for expensive cognac and lavish spending on cars and short-term rental accommodations. “T.G. was clearly engaged in a criminal lifestyle, as evidence in part by his participation in the kidnapping,” she wrote in a 24-page decision.

Molloy dismissed all charges against his co-accused, M.R.

About an hour before his arrest, T.G. was spotted on a high-rise balcony, “smoking, singing, and pointing to a stack of money he had in one hand.” When heavily armed Emergency Task force officers busted through the door they found street-level drug paraphernalia, fentanyl-laced heroin, crack cocaine and $1,900 in cash.

In early December, Lincoln Richards and Rushine Rowe, in their early 20s, both pleaded guilty for their roles in the kidnapping.

The two captives can’t be identified because of safety concerns.

Their ordeal began at an April 18, 2016, party gone awry in a unit on the 25th floor at 300 Front St., a downtown Toronto building with a reputation as a hot spot for short-term renters throwing parties.

Using the name Antowuan Adams, T.G. paid cash for Unit 2509 — it was customary for him in early 2016, when he was blowing about $4,000 a month on cars and condos, the judge wrote in her decision.

Richards, a rapper known as Ranski, brought two 16-year-olds to the party. One was an outsider, hailing from an area in northwest Toronto known as Queen’s Drive. Most of the partiers were associated with the city’s hardscrabble Lawrence Heights and Driftwood neighbourhoods.

Around 3:30 a.m., uninvited members of “the Queen’s Drive group” showed up at the building, the judge wrote summarizing the evening’s events. Richards, Rowe and two youths left the party to find them, but didn’t, and headed back to the 25th-floor condo. When the elevator door opened, the Queen’s Drive members were in the hallway.

Guns were drawn, bullets fired, surveillance footage recording some of the mayhem.

Police found evidence of shootings in three separate areas of the building and casings from at least two separate guns. Despite this, no one was injured.

T.G. and his associates blamed the 16-year-olds for disclosing the location of the party to the interlopers.

The bandits fled the condo tower and headed for a townhouse in Swansea, near High Park, where Richards lived with his mother. There, the teens were tied to chairs and beaten repeatedly, one of them pistol-whipped in the head.

While Richards stayed behind to clean up the mess, the group took their tied-up captives to two different apartments in Lawrence Heights. There, they were subjected to more beatings, one of them attacked by an assailant using a wooden carving of a fish, grabbed from a wall.

Digital photos of the bound and bloodied pair were sent to members of the Queen’s Drive group.

The Crown also alleged the kidnappers forced the teens to perform sexual acts on each other, which they videotaped to ensure their demands for $10,000 in ransom were met.

An older brother, a convicted drug dealer who knew some of the kidnappers, received a photo showing the captors threatening to cut off his finger with scissors.

Their mother, who learned of the kidnapping from her older son, confronted Richards on the street wearing her son’s jacket. “Your son is in this predicament right now because of what he did so anything that happens to your son he deserves,” Richards, who flashed his gun, told her.

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, the teen’s mother made a $3,000 downpayment on the ransom and he was released at a Husky gas station. It was his grandmother who alerted the cops, who got the emergency wire as a result. The arrests followed later.

After he was set free, the teen gave a detailed three-hour statement to police about his ordeal. “They were playing Russian roulette with us, putting one bullet in … and spinning it,” he told them. One shot went “right by my head.”

But he eventually realized he would be required to testify in court.

“Who does such a thing?” the exhausted teen asked the officers.

“Who does what?” one of them asked back.

“Come to trial and you going to look at me and I am going to say, ‘yeah, this guy he kidnapped me.’ ”

After that he clammed up — and recanted everything he had already told them.

Despite this, prosecutors Elizabeth Nadeau and Glenn Brotherston were able to get his statement admitted into court. (The other victim also refused to cooperate.)

To prove their case, led by Toronto Police Detectives Sergio Brito and Brandon Robinson, the Crown attorneys relied on what the judge called “substantial independent” corroborative evidence, which included fingerprints, surveillance footage, wiretaps — and a broken carving of a fish.

Next month, prosecutors are seeking to have T.G. sentenced as an adult. Rowe and Richards are also scheduled for sentencing in January.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy


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