Irishman recalls kidnap ordeal by Bolivian gang

KIDNAPPED at gunpoint, blindfolded, handcuffed and threatened. A dream trip to South America turned deadly for an Irishman and his girlfriend taken hostage shortly after arriving in the Bolivian capital of La Paz last October.

Speaking out about his horrific ordeal for the first time, 24-year-old Ronan Flynn from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, told the Irish Examiner he was “100% sure” he was going to be killed.

The ordeal began when Mr Flynn and his Swedish girlfriend Caroline Wingren, 21, got into what they thought was a taxi in La Paz late at night.

“There was one taxi man at the bus stop. We were wary, but he kept pestering us so we eventually took it,” he said. “We were driving for about 10 minutes up into the hills around La Paz. When we were still driving 10 minutes later, I knew something was up.”

Mr Flynn, who is now in New Zealand, said three men jumped into the car, handcuffed and blindfolded them and stuck a gun in their faces.

“My girlfriend kept saying they are going to kill us. At first I was reassuring her, but then I thought what is the point in lying. I was sure they would kill us.”

After driving for about 40 minutes, the men stopped the car. “I thought they were going to throw me off the edge and rape my girlfriend,” he said.

“They took us to a house and kept saying they only wanted money and were not going to kill us, but when we gave them all our money and our bank cards, they still were not satisfied.”

The gunmen told MrFlynn he had to ring home and ask for $5,000 to be wired via Western Union.

“I told her [my mother] I needed the money because Caroline was in hospital and had to be flown home. She wanted to book the flights on her credit card as she did not have the cash but I said no, she couldn’t do that.”

He managed to tell his mother in code that his girlfriend had been kidnapped.

“She got a loan from the bank and wired it through straight away,” he said.

“I went to the bank with a 13-year-old boy who I was told to say I was sponsoring if any questions were asked. They put bullets into my hand and said they would kill my girlfriend if I did not do what they said.”

After handing the money over, the men put the two on a bus bound for Peru.

After recovering from their ordeal in Peru for three weeks, the couple returned to La Paz in an attempt to seek justice.

“We spent 11 days with the Bolivian police looking for the men but found nothing. I would go back, the people are very friendly and I would not like to tar them all with the same brush.”


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