A Singaporean woman abducted by a Chinese syndicate was rescued after a security guard in Manila spotted her leg wriggling outside an apartment door as she was being pulled back.
In an attempt to escape, the woman had been shouting and had opened a door leading to the veranda of an apartment at a Pasay City condominium before she was stopped in her tracks.
But thankfully for her, help came within minutes.
As it turned out, the Philippine National Police's Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) was at the condominium looking for the woman, described as Ms Wu Yan, 48.
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One of the AKG officers gave The Straits Times an account yesterday of how his team tried to locate Ms Wu.
AKG director Glenn Dumlao said: "She was surprised when after her shouts, police were already there. She didn't know that we were there the night before."
Ms Wu was rescued from Bayview International Towers on Tuesday morning. When the police entered Room 301 at 9.45am, they found most of the 14 syndicate members still asleep.
Her rescue eventually led to the arrests of 45 suspects - aged between 25 and 35 - linked to a loan-shark and kidnap-for-ransom syndicate. They were charged yesterday and may face life sentences if found guilty.
Ms Wu was able to "positively identify" 15 of the suspects, said Senior Superintendent Dumlao, 53.
Among the suspects were two Malaysians and a Chinese national, believed to be the group's leader and financier.
Investigations revealed that Ms Wu was held captive for almost four days. Before the kidnapping, she had been gambling at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City when she was approached by strangers.
The syndicate had watched and tailed her for three days, said Senior Supt Dumlao.
He said: "They lured her (by saying), 'You are not lucky in Solaire. It is better to transfer to another casino. It is easy to win in the City of Dreams Casino'. "
The City of Dreams Manila casino is over 1km away from Solaire Resort and Casino. But Ms Wu never made it there. She was forcibly taken by four members of the syndicate - three men and a woman - to the condominium by taxi.
It was a phone call on Monday that alerted the police to Ms Wu's disappearance. A desperate-sounding male friend of Ms Wu's from Singapore told police that she had been abducted by a group demanding US$180,000 (S$246,000).
The police received a break after getting information from Solaire Resort and Casino, which traced the taxi used in the abduction.
It led the investigators to the condominium, where the AKG team held an all-night stake-out.
Some 50 police officers, including 10 officials from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration, were involved in the operation.
Ms Wu's shouts helped the police to focus on the unit where she was being held. When the police entered, they were surprised to find so many people there.
However, the police did not find any weapons. Instead, they discovered video clips showing kidnap victims with guns pointed at their heads and being beaten.
Senior Supt Dumlao said: "The syndicates would show relatives (of the victims) these video clips. They used guns and beat the victims so that the families would give in immediately.
"Ms Wu Yan was not (video) recorded, but she was beaten when she was speaking to her family."
As of yesterday, Ms Wu was still in Manila helping with police investigations. The Straits Times understands that she has declined consular assistance.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the syndicate had used the same room to detain a woman from Hong Kong on July 9, Senior Supt Dumlao said.
The syndicate, which the police believe had 50 members, usually worked in groups of four. They would identify victims and befriend them on the pretext of pointing them to a "better" casino.
Senior Supt Dumlao said: "We are really looking into this because of so many similar incidents at the casinos. Tourists should be aware (of strangers) and not entertain anybody who approaches you wanting to be friends at casinos."