Abducted girl comes home after 13 years
The extraordinary story of a 15-year-old Samoan girl, abducted from Apia thirteen years ago and rescued from the Philippines, comes alive during a special reunion held at the New Zealand High Commission, Apia, today.
The gathering will acknowledge the efforts made by so many people worldwide to bring her back. It is a story that is hard to believe.
And it started right here in Samoa.
Bruce Peak, Project Facilitator of Green Distillation Technologies Pty Ltd, explains:
“My wife Belle on returning to Australia after visiting her family in Savai'i told me a story that came through Rev Tau Reupena of the Fagafau Assembly of God.
One of the Church members, whose daughter disappeared 13 years ago at the age of 15 years, had contacted the Fagafau Assembly of God and spoke to my wife’s sister Nele to say she had been kidnapped from Apia by an American couple with a Dutch crew .
“The girl was held aboard a large motor craft that zigzagged its way through SE Asia with Melisa being abused for 4 years however, she escaped by jumping overboard when the vessel had engine problems and ran and ran.
“She told Nele in broken Samoan that she was alive and asked her to please find her mother to help her. Unfortunately, Nele was so shocked by the call and Melisa was having problems being understood that all she remembered was the cell phone number and location: the Philippines.
"My wife, knowing I had business interests throughout the region, asked what could I do to help. Having many retired former friends with intelligence contacts, I started a project of finding someone who had been a victim of trafficking in a country of 78 million people.
“It was a frustrating six month journey that I took on. Financial costs mounted daily over that time as I tried to locate someone from just a cell number that was pre paid. It took two months just to track the number to Cebu in the Philippines.
I set up a team in Manila headed up by Mr David Munns and his daughter Tracy of Desco Geothermal Inc who I had partnered in various business opportunities over 30 years focusing our efforts on that general location of an area of 4 million people. And then a break through occurred.
"We found the name of the person with the cell phone and the village where Melisa was then our Manila team rang this number until the party at the other end understood the serious position they were in by not cooperating as to where Melisa was held. “We found out later that after Melisa had escaped the vessel, she had found refuge at a LDS mission.
But unfortunately, the Samoan pastor who just happened to be there at the time instead of helping her by contacting decent church elders placed her in what he called a safe house so the crew of the vessel could not find her and just left her there to work as free labour instead of bringing her home through his church.