The nightmare did not end there for the teenager as the armed men bundled Peggy into her father’s white Corolla station wagon and sped off.
Hours later, Peggy’s parents received a call from an unidentified man who demanded a $50,000 ransom for her safe return.
The incident outraged residents of the close knit neighbourhood where the family lives.
According to police reports at about 4.45 pm, Peggy, an Upper Six student of North Eastern College, arrived at her home at St Marie’s Street, Emmanuel Congo Road, Cumuto, along with her mother Premati when they were ambushed by three gunmen.
The men forced the girl and her mother into the house and began demanding cash and jewelry. When the frightened women told the gunmen they had none, the armed assailants began beating Premati with the gun butts, as Peggy’s screams echoed through the house.
Her 12-year-old brother, who was in the house at the time, ran to his mother’s assistance and he too was beaten about the body, gagged and tied up. Minutes later, Harold, Peggy’s father, arrived home unaware of what was taking place inside.
As he entered the front door, he was struck on the head by one of the men who began beating him, and pushed him into a bedroom where he was tied up and gagged.
Premati and their son were taken to another room where they too were tied up and gagged. While this was taking place, a third gunman kept watch over Peggy.
Two of the gunmen then began packing grocery items and meats into bags which they later placed into Harold’s station wagon.
Peggy was then tied up with a piece of rope, gagged and forced into the back seat of her father’s car. She was still clad in her school uniform which was a black skirt and white shirt.
As the men drove off, they passed an uncle of the girl who saw the car leaving the area. However, all the windows of the car were wound up. The uncle, Aziz Mohammed, found it suspicious that none of the occupants of the car waved or called out to him.
He then went to the house only to discover that Peggy’s mother, father and brother, had untied themselves and were suffering from cuts and bruises. Mohammed called the Cumuto police who arrived within minutes. They were later joined by a large contingent of police officers.
Premati, Harold, and their son were taken to the Sangre Grande District Hospital where they were treated and discharged. When they had returned to their home, close to 100 villagers had already gathered to lend support to the distraught parents.
During the night, the villagers kept vigil with Premati hoping Peggy would be returned safely. However, their hopes were dashed when a kidnapper called demanding the $50,000 ransom. This evoked screams and tears from the women who had gathered around Premati to console her.
Early yesterday villagers took a decision to try and raise the money to pay the ransom, however, police officers dissuaded them from doing this.
The villagers insisted they would stop at nothing to have Peggy returned home unharmed and by mid-afternoon most of the men from the village teamed up with officers of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Northern Division Task Force, to carry out searches in Cumuto in the hope of finding the schoolgirl.
While the searches were taking place, relatives, teachers, neighbours and friends of Peggy gathered at her home awaiting news from the search parties.
Three officers of the Anti Kidnaping Squad also went to the house yesterday and spoke with the parents and brother of the missing girl. Mohammed, Peggy’s uncle, pleaded with the kidnappers to return his niece unharmed and said the incident had left him and others traumatised.
“This is the first time such an incident has happened in this quiet community. We live as a family here, and I am calling on the kidnappers to release this innocent girl,” Mohammed said.
His voice choking with emotion, Mohammed said his life had been turned upside down and he urged the nation to pray for the safe return of his niece.
Peggy’s elder brother, who preferred not to give his name, wept openly as he too pleaded with the kidnappers to release her unharmed.
“I am begging these people, please release my sister. That’s my only sister and she is very dear and close to us. We are waiting on a further call. Be kind to us and listen to our pleas,” he said.
Harold and Premati were too distraught to be interviewed by Newsday, but speaking through another relative, they said their joy was snatched away from them and all they wanted at this time was to be reunited with their only daughter.
They called on the police to work round-the-clock to find their daughter and pleaded with the kidnappers not to harm her.
Senior Superintendent Stephen Ramsubhag and ACP Eulyn Julias coordinated searches in the forested areas of Cumuto yesterday but by 6 pm there was no sign of the girl or the kidnappers.
Investigators believe the kidnappers took groceries and meats from the home because they may be hiding out in a forested area and the supplies were taken to provide meals for them.
Officers of the Anti Kidnaping Unit were working closely yesterday with an intelligence agency to assist in locating Peggy.
When Newsday visited Peggy’s school, North Eastern College, several of her classmates were in tears, and also pleaded with the kidnappers to return her to her family. They described the teenager as an intelligent, well organised and disciplined person.
Even teachers at the school spoke highly of Peggy and added that counselling was being organised for her classmates.
Peggy is the first person to be kidnaped for ransom for the year thus far.