Victoria Murray, a 16-year-old student of Holy Child College Lagos, grabbed the attention of Nigerians as news around her disappearance flooded the media. Mr Senan Murray, father of the missing girl, Victoria, was our guest on the Good Citizen Radio Show on Inspiration FM Lagos, on Friday 24th of May to narrate his harrowing experience to our listeners.
On Wednesday May 1st, Victoria never returned home after leaving early in the morning to attend school. She had just resumed as a day student of her school after many years as a boarder and was still familiarising herself with the route she had just started travelling 2 days prior. In a frantic attempt to locate their missing child, the parents reported the case to Maroko police division which was the one closest to them. The police immediately radioed the other police formations in Lagos alerting them of the missing child them of the missing child. To their despair, nothing happened after this and their child was still missing. In an act of desperation, Mr Murray, reached out to the media to appeal to Nigerians to aid in the search efforts to find his missing child.
After a week and no new news had surfaced, Mr Murray in an attempt to utilise every resource available to him, reached out to Mr John Momoh, Chairman and CEO of Channels TV, for a T.V spot to run an announcement soliciting the help of Nigerians to find the missing Victoria. Mr Momoh ran the announcement at different intervals for two days straight without ever asking for a penny from Mr Murray. The television announcement initiated a nationwide media frenzy as people began posting pictures and messages of Victoria’s disappearance on social media. Mr Murray revealed that he himself had been a recipient of one of such messages on WhatsApp. It was at this point he realised that he needed to address the public and plead for the safe return of his daughter. He made a post on Facebook which stated that it had been 2 weeks since Victoria had disappeared with a full description of what she looked like. This post instantly went viral with users sharing the message in their own little attempt to find the girl. “In less than 24 hours, was shared more than 7700 times by people I didn’t even know on Facebook and across all kinds of social media platforms” stated Mr Murray.
The posts eventually grabbed the attention of a young gentleman who prefers to remain anonymous who had earlier spotted Victoria in the Ajah area of Lagos. He contacted Mr Murray and informed him of this who in turn contacted the police to update them on the development. Senan arranged to meet with the gentleman in a fuelling station in Ajah, but spooked the man with the presence of the Nigerian police who came as a form of backup in case this was a scheme by the culprits to endanger Mr Murray as well. The man, not wanting to be arrested as the main suspect in the case, refused to meet with Senan unless he agreed to meet without the police force. Out of fear of losing the only lead, Mr Murray agreed to the requests. The man’s confidence in his information of spotting a girl who perfectly matched the descriptions of Victoria with two men on Friday 3rd May in the area, led to a search through the road, house after house asking for information.
He soon discovered that indeed his daughter had been spotted in the area. In one case, a person had spotted her eating at a restaurant in the company of 2 men. “yeah, they ate in this restaurant”. And I asked they ate in your restaurant? What were they discussing when they were eating there, “they were telling the girl eat, eat, eat.” Senan told listeners. He was introduced to a local vigilante group who promised the return of his daughter if she was indeed within the Ajah area. Hopeful but without absolute belief in them, Senan returned to his efforts with the Nigerian police to locate his child. On Saturday 18th May, roughly 2 weeks after Victoria disappeared, Mr Murray received a call from the vigilante group with the words “we have found your daughter”. He rushed to the meeting point with his wife to find a dispirited Victoria seated with her hands in between her legs amongst the vigilante group who reunited the girl to her parents without asking for anything from them, leading to the end of a terrifying journey for the Murray family.
But questions arise from this entire situation, who were the kidnappers? Where was she kept? How did they convince her to follow them? What can parents really do to keep their kids safe?
Inspecting the hostage cell, Mr Murray describes it as “place I wouldn’t keep pigs in. The place is wet, and she wasn’t sleeping on anything on the floor at all”. Unfortunately, the kidnappers are still at large as police efforts to tracked them down have been futile at this point. It has been discovered that they enticed Victoria with a promise of relocating her to Europe to a successful career in modelling if she followed them. She has always had a keen interest in modelling, coupled with the fact that she had never travelled abroad made it unsurprising that she willingly followed people who would later hold her hostage in an incomplete building located in a swamp. This same promise kept Victoria put even though her environment and the conditions she had to live in said otherwise.
Mr Murray, which sources have revealed is actually not the biological father of Victoria but rather a family caretaker after the death of Victoria’s parents, has since been the recipient of many accusations and allegations on social media of being an abusive caretaker which intensifying her need to run away from home. He commented “It is very hurtful. I can’t tell you how hurtful it is to sit down and listen to people about how much I love or don’t love my kids.” He even agreed to an interview with Victoria and a social group that reached out outrightly accusing him of child abuse to prove her content at home in an attempt to thwart the accusations, but due to miscommunication this interview never happened. He has since reconsidered his stance on granting interviews as Victoria, still fragile from the whole escapade, is actively seeing a therapist to help process the inflicted trauma.
His decision to share his story is his attempt to help teach parents lessons learnt from the experience. He advises parents to always talk to their children keeping a closer eye on them and their activities. Arguably, the 21st century child has been so over protected that they are now living in a cocoon of naivety unlike their parent probably were at the same age. A stern explanation on the dangers of talking to strangers might be the difference between life and death for unsuspecting children as security concerns continue to escalate both within Nigeria and globally.