When crime makes the headlines, it’s rarely good news. Every now and again, however, positive outcomes unfold. We’re talking here, specifically, about missing children who are found even after all hope seems lost. While abductions cause an unbearable amount of trauma for everyone involved, a child’s return to their parents is the first step in the long road to recovery. Here are four incredible kidnappings where the child thankfully made their way home.
Cleo Smith (2021)
Two and a half weeks after four year-old Cleo Smith disappeared from a campsite in Western Australia, her family still had no idea where she was. Chloe and her sleeping bag were both missing, she was assumed to have been taken.
Police conducted a widespread search and rescue attempt but came up with nothing. Five days after she went missing, police confirmed that they were now treating the disappearance as an abduction case. A $1m reward was put in place for information leading to her safe return, which instantly attracted bounty hunters.
A break in the case saw WA Police find Cleo in a house very near her home in Carnarvon. 36-year-old Terence Darrell Kelly was charged with her kidnapping. Thankfully, Kelly had not harmed the child and the world collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
Victoria McMahon (2014)
Barely a few hours old, tiny baby Victoria McMahon was stolen from the Ville-Marie Hospital in Quebec, Canada. A nurse picked up the newborn to be weighed but later it transpired that the woman hadn’t taken Victoria to the weighing station, but had instead walked downstairs to the car park and driven off. She was not, it turns out, a nurse at all.
An ‘Amber Alert’ was put out and police alerted local media. Soon, social media was alight with concerned citizens sharing the shocking news story. Very quickly, the photo of the suspect was identified by a former neighbour and - just three hours after the abduction, baby Victoria was safely back at the hospital and with her mother.
21 year-old Valérie Poulin Collins was arrested. She was a mentally unstable young woman who had recently had a series of psychotic breakdowns, was fighting a drug addiction and involved in a serious car accident not long before the kidnapping. Collins admitted to abduction and was sentenced to a prison sentence of ‘two years less a day.
Erica Pratt (2002)
Aged just seven, Erica was snatched off a street in Philadelphia by Edward Johnson., His friend James Burns worked as the getaway driver and the pair drove to an abandoned house where they bound Erica’s arms and legs. Their plan was to force the girl’s family to pay a ransom of $150,000 after hearing that they had received a recent life insurance pay-out.
The bungling amateur criminals’ plan soon turned sour when the cunning kid plotted her escape and executed it with a serious amount of skill. Erica gnawed her way through the tape on her wrists and freed her legs. She then scrambled to a window, smashed it and managed to squeeze through unharmed. She then ran all the way home, with her captors none the wiser.
Philadelphia's head police inspector William Colarulo commented on Pratt's incredible escape from captivity, saying: "I have 21 years in the Police Department, and I have never seen this kind of heroic act of bravery committed by a seven year-old. Her problem solving and actions should work as lessons for others."
Time magazine made the smart and brave youngster their 'Person of the Week' too, stating that Erica "serves as a reminder that not all abductions end in tears".
Willie Myrick (2014)
Our final example also sees the abductor’s plans go awry when the child they snatch refuses to play ball.
On 31st March 2014, nine year-old Willie Myrick was grabbed and taken outside his home in Atlanta. His kidnapper lured him with the promise of cash, then forced the boy into the car and drove off.
Myrick didn’t have to worm his way out of being tied up, though. The abduction never even got that far. In fact, the botched crime began and ended in the kidnapper’s car.
As soon as Willie saw he was being driven away, he decided to ask his good friend God for help. So he started to sing a gospel song by the Grammy award-winning Hezekiah Walker called ‘Every Praise’. He started and didn’t stop. For three hours. The man started to lose his cool and berate and swear at the child for the incessant noise. But he simply wouldn’t stop singing. In the end, the abductor stopped the car, kicked Willie out and soon he was back safely at home.
"He opened the door and threw me out," Willie told local TV news station WXIA-TV. "He told me not to tell anyone".
When Willie’s favourite singer Hezekiah Walker heard about the story he rushed down to Atlanta to meet the boy and perform for him and his congregation. Which is a lovely ending to the story, we’re sure you agree.