Aussie woman escapes kidnap in Italy
AN Australian woman was rescued by Italian police after after being bundled into a van by hooded men in broad daylight in the centre of the northern city of Turin.
Dramatic video footage shows the men pushing the 35-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, into a black Volkswagen van as she screamed and tried to break free.
Police said she may have been mistakenly targeted in an attempt by the perpetrators to recover money lost in a currency exchange scam.
The kidnappers also tried to abduct her male companion but he managed to escape and shout for police help while astonished passers-by looked on as the incident unfolded at around 11am local time on Wednesday, Italian news reports said.
"The woman started screaming while her escort ran away," said Saverio Moffa, an ice cream parlour employee who witnessed the scene.
"The man who took her looked like a bouncer. Her face was covered with a balaclava," he told La La Repubblica newspaper.
The van then drove off at speed and a short time later pulled into a parking lot where police quickly arrived and arrested three men, all German nationals, and freed the woman, who was found in the back of the vehicle with her hands tied, reports said.
No information has been released on the condition of the woman, who was said to be a joint Australian-Serbian national.
CCTV footage of the arrest shows police officers, their guns drawn, going into the parking lot building and re-emerging with three men in handcuffs.
"The three detainees, of German nationality, had bulletproof vests, fake weapons..., knives, handcuffs, stolen (car registration) plates; all things that suggest intentions that are not at all positive," said Marco Martino, the head of the Turin Flying Squad police unit.
"Apparently the attempted kidnapping was carried out to try to recover 50,000 euros that was taken from a fourth man, an Austrian now in custody," he said.
He added that the victims of the failed kidnap attempt appeared to have been mistakenly targeted.
Media reports said that one of those arrested was a German who was cheated out of tens of thousands euros in June this year in the Italian city of Milan.
He reportedly was paid with 50,000 in fake euro notes and was determined to get them back from the people who scammed him.
Instead of going to the police, he allegedly hired a detective agency to recover the money.
Italian media reported that some of the people arrested were working for a detective agency when they were arrested.
The suspects' arrest was witnessed by the owner of the parking lot in Turin where the men tried to hide after abducting the Australian woman.
"They came in and asked me if they could leave the van here. They spoke in English… When I told them 'no', explaining to them that the van was too big, they turned around to leave, but they found themselves in front of the police," the garage owner told Italian media.