The Canadian government recorded 41,035 official reports of missing children in Canada in 2013, and 33 of the cases were attributed to abduction by strangers. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Missing Children Society of Canada worked a total caseload of 251 registered files, closing 170 of them.
While uncommon, there are cases where abductors keep their victims captive for long periods of time.
On Wednesday, for example, police in Los Angeles reported they’d made an arrest in the case of a 25-year-old woman who said she was abducted in California a decade ago by a man who forced her to marry him and who fathered her child. The woman, whose name is being withheld, came forward to police on Monday after finding her sister on Facebook. Police described a decade during which the now 25-year-old woman — abused mentally, physically and sexually by her captor — was moved at least four times and given multiple fake identities to hide her from family and authorities.
Here are eight cases from around the world of people abducted as children and held for years before escaping or being freed.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight
A 911 call on May 6, 2013, led police to a house near downtown Cleveland, Ohio, where three women were found. Police say Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had all disappeared in the Cleveland area and had been held inside the house for about a decade.
Michelle Knight disappeared Aug. 22, 2002, at age 20, according to police. It was thought at first that she had left home on her own.
Amanda Berry went missing during the evening on April 21, 2003, after calling her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. It was the day before her 17th birthday. Her six-year-old daughter was also in the house when Berry was freed.
Gina DeJesus vanished in Cleveland after leaving school on the afternoon of April 2, 2004. She was 14 years old at the time.
“I heard screaming,” said neighbour Charles Ramsey, who helped rescue Berry. “I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.”
Neighbour Anna Tejeda aid one of her friends went over and told Berry how to kick the screen out of the bottom of the locked door, which allowed her to get out. When Berry told her she’d been kidnapped and held captive, Tejeda said she gave her the telephone to call police, who arrived within minutes and then took the other women from the house.
Police arrested Ariel Castro, 52, later the same day. In July 2013 he pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape – 937 charges in total. On Sept. 3, 2013, Castro was found dead in his cell.
In 1991, when she was 11, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped as she was waiting at a bus stop near her California home.
For 18 years, she was held in a secret backyard compound behind the home of Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy, who both later pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault. He was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison; she was sentenced to 36 years to life.
During her captivity, Dugard gave birth to two daughters. In a 2011 interview, she talked through tears about both the pain and determination she felt as she gave birth to her captor’s child in his backyard while she was still just a girl herself.
Dugard was clear and composed throughout the interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, but became emotional when she talked about her first glimpse of the first of two girls fathered by Garrido. Dugard’s A Stolen Life: A Memoir was published in 2011.
Elisabeth Fritzl disappeared from her town of Amstetten, Austria, in 1984 at age 18.
In 2008, 24 years later, she re-emerged from the dungeon-like basement chamber where her father, Josef, had kept her captive.
Joseph had raped her thousands of times, and Elisabeth bore him seven children, one of whom died in captivity after Josef refused to allow medical treatment.
Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life in a prison psychiatric ward in March 2009.
Elisabeth Fritzl and her children were given new identities.
Natascha Kampusch was snatched on her way to school in 1998 and held for eight years in a small cellar under the garage of her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, in Austria.
She made a dramatic escape in 2006 at age 18, and eventually described repeated physical and mental abuse inflicted on her by Priklopil, who committed suicide hours after she escaped.
In her first interview, Kampusch said she “thought only of escape” throughout her ordeal and repeatedly wondered why she was the child snatched by Priklopil. Kampusch said she was rarely allowed to go outside her cell in a suburb of Vienna. She was allowed to watch television and videos, listen to the radio and read books.
After escaping, she continued to live in Vienna and began hosting a TV show in June 2008.
Before her disappearance on Nov. 13, 1990, in her northern Japanese hometown of Sanjo, nine-year-old Fusako Sano had been watching a school baseball game.
She was held for nine years and two months by a man who kept her on the upstairs floor of the apartment he shared with his mother, who lived downstairs.
The young woman was found after the man’s mother called officials from a hospital asking them to take a look at her son because his actions seemed strange.
Elizabeth Smart was abducted at age 14 from the bedroom she shared with her nine-year-old sister in Salt Lake City, Utah.
She was found nine months later.
Smart testified in excruciating detail about waking up in the early hours of June 5, 2002, to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Brian David Mitchell to his camp in the foothills near the Smart family home.
Within hours of the kidnapping, she testified, she was stripped of her favourite red pyjamas, draped in white religious robes and forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell.
She was tethered to a metal cable strung between two trees, subjected to near-daily rapes, and forced to use alcohol and drugs.
Mitchell was convicted of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex and is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.
After being freed, Smart became an activist and journalist, and also created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation that works to prevent crimes against children.
Steven Stayner was abducted while walking home from school in Merced, Calif., in 1972. The seven-year-old boy was forced to live as the foster son of his abductor, who sexually abused him until he escaped seven years later.
That escape came when Stayner walked into a police station with another boy, Timothy Lee White, who had been snatched by his abductor. Stayner told police he didn’t want the younger child to face the same abuse he had.
Their abductor, Kenneth Parnell, was convicted of two counts of kidnapping and died in prison in January 2008.
Stayner died in a motorcycle accident in 1989.
Shawn Hornbeck had last been seen riding his bike in October 2002 near his home in Richwoods, Mo.
He was found four years later, at age 15, along with another teen, in the apartment of Michael Devlin in suburban St. Louis by police executing a routine search warrant.
Devlin, a former pizza parlour manager, was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against Hornbeck and the Missouri boy he kidnapped. Both boys were sexually abused.The boys had disappeared 4½ years and about 65 kilometres apart, but both were last seen in towns within 100 kilometres of St. Louis.
The families of the two boys said their rescue was the end of a nightmare.
Abby Drover was 12 years old in March 1976 when she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a neighbour, Donald Alexander Hay. She was held for 181 days in a hidden cement bunker under Hay’s garage in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody before being rescued.
Hay had pretended to help police in the search for the missing girl, who was chained and slowly starving to death in the secret room accessed through a cupboard in the garage. The search turned up no trace of the girl.
Drover was finally discovered when Hay’s wife called police to investigate because Hay had been behaving strangely.
Hay, who said he was an alcoholic and not in control of himself at the time of the abduction, was sentenced to life in prison in 1977. He was denied parole in 1997, in January 2001 and again in December 2006 when he told the parole board he “felt sorry” for his victim and prays for her every day, but did not make an apology for his behaviour. In July 2008 Hay cancelled a parole hearing that had been scheduled for December, but gave no reasons.
Hay died on June 3, 2012, at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon at the age of 79.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .