Dubai: It seemed straight out of a Hollywood movie. The setting is in the 1990s. There were CCTV cameras already in use.
A woman in Saudi Arabia was finally caught by the long arm of the law — more than 20 years after she started kidnapping newborns from a hospital in Dammam, a city in the Kingdom's eastern province.
The serial kidnappings of three male infants — over a period of nine years — has become a cause celebre on Saudi social media scene.
The story unravelled in a rather bizarre way. Mariam, the serial kidnapper, showed up at a police station to obtain a national ID for two boys. She said she had found them abandoned 20 years ago.
The police officer did not buy into her story. He started looking into old records of kidnapped children in Saudi Arabia.
A spokesman for the Eastern Province's police said in a statement recently that a DNA check showed a relation between the boys and two kidnap reports filed in 1996 and 1999 in Damam.
According to the reports, one of the two children were kidnapped from the Women and Childbirth Hospital in Dammam in 1996. The name his parents gave him was Mohammad Amari. He now lives under the name of Ali.
The second child was kidnapped in 1999. His parent gave him the name Moussa Khneezi, and now goes by the name of Anas.
He was kidnapped from the same hospital in Dammam three hours after his birth, when a woman disguised as nurse took him from his mother's arms, saying he needs a bath — and never returned.
Yesterday (February 18, 2020) Moussa was reunited with his family, following a DNA test. The results came out on Monday (February 17) matching the DNA profiles of his parents, who live in another city.
The police identified the serial kidnapper, now in her 50's, as "Mariam", who lives in Damam and comes from a respected family. Local media reported that Mariam avoided meeting her family until the boys were older.
Mariam was married. But the family also said they were not aware that Mariam's first husband divorced her after refusing to register the boys under his name.
According to official birth certificates, she claimed to have given birth two boys, Mohammad and Nayef, and two girls from her first marriage.
Police suspected something was amiss. So they ran a DNA test on all the children she has, and Nayef was a no match.
Nayef's profile matched the age of a baby who went missing from a Qutaif hospital in 1993 from the Quraidi family.
Saudi media reported that Mariam started her crib-snatching spree after she had a miscariage, and lost twins.
During investigations, she reportedly confessed to the kidnapping charges.
She admitted that she stopped after she was about to get caught in her last kidnap attempt in 2002.
According to neighbours, Mariam's children were not seen, as she kept them away all the time.
Anas, Ali and Nayef were only seen recently, while her eldest Mohammad works for goverment and got married recently. It was the first marriage among her children, and all six were present, including the girls.
"Damam kidnapper", as the Saudi media calls her, admitted in police investigations that every 3 years, she kidnapped a baby boy as she did not want girls.
1993: Her first kidnap from Al Qatif Hospital She was still with her first husband when she kidnapped "Nayef" (who turned out to be Mohammad Al Qaradi). She was able to register him under her husband's name back then.
1996: Her second victim was "Ali" (who turned out to be Mohammad Al Amari), kidnapped from Dammam Hospital, 3 years after the first kidnapping. She wanted to register him under her first husband's name, but the latter refused and divorced her. Mariam married a second man, who also refused to register Mohammad.
1999: The third, and final, victim was 'Anas' (who turned out to be Moussa Khneezi), who was also kidnapped from Dammam Hospital in 1999, 3 years after the second was kidnapped. Mariam did not register him too.
According to Mariam's confessions there was anohter attempt in 2002 but it failed, and she decided to stop.
Moussa Khneezi reunited with family
Moussa Khneezi was reunited with his family on Tuesday, February 18.
His father, Ali Khneezi, told Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya that he never gave up looking for his son since the day he was abducted.
“It was like fire burning my heart after my son was stolen, and his mother cried continuously night after night, repeatedly asking only one question — that was about her son’s whereabouts,” father told Al Arabiya.
Authorities are arranging for the two two boys to be reunited with the original families in coming days — after all tests and formalities are completed.