Alleged kidnap victim tells of shipping container escape
AN Ipswich court heard a woman allegedly assaulted, tied up, kidnapped and held in a shipping container overnight with her husband has debts of over $1 million, owed to several different people, as a result of a gambling problem.
Ha Thi Pham took the stand again yesterday in the trial of Van Dat Vu, who pleaded not guilty to eight charges including kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, extortion and the unlawful use of vehicles.
The Crown are placing Vu at the centre of an alleged plan to abduct Ms Pham and her husband Van Tien Hoang on June 14 2017 and extort them for money while keeping them locked inside a shipping container at his Richlands property.
Ms Pham told the court she recognised the voice of Vu - known to her as Mr Dat - threatening to keep them inside the locked container until they paid $1 million.
She said they were told they'd be "left to die" unless they handed over the money and she said she knew Vu as she was a regular shopper at his Darra Vietnamese grocery store, stopping in once a week to buy fish.
The married couple of 39 years were allegedly kidnapped separately and thrown into the container to be left overnight, with the doors locked with lengths of steel wire.
Ms Pham had to stop and compose herself on a couple of occasions while giving her testimony, describing how she found it difficult to breathe in complete darkness inside the incredibly hot container.
Vu is alleged to have told the pair "no money, no release" before leaving them for the night.
The couple was able to escape through a gap in the container and ran through bushland and onto Freeman Rd into the path of a police car early the next day.
Under questioning from defence barrister Dominic Nguyen, Ms Pham said she owed $1.4 million including interest to another Vietnamese woman My Le after borrowing a total of $850,000 since October 2015.
It was at Ms Le's Inala home where Ms Pham was allegedly kidnapped after agreeing to pay back $5000 a week, usually in $100 notes, every Saturday after being hospitalised late in 2016.
Ms Pham also owed thousands of dollars to other women, including $130,000 to two Inala business owners.
At the time of the alleged kidnapping, she was taking care of her mother and received a Centrelink carer's payment.
Her debts were a result of gambling and the court heard she had been at a Gold Coast casino on the morning she was allegedly kidnapped.
She would not disclose how much money she had lost gambling after being pressed by Mr Nguyen.
Her husband, who had split from her due to her gambling issues, had given her $170,000 after getting a mortgage out on his home.
Ms Pham denied suggestions from Mr Nguyen she had told Ms Le she had a "plan" to stop people chasing her for money while she was visiting her in hospital in October or November 2016.
She denied she had borrowed money from Vu as well and done so the morning she was allegedly kidnapped.
"We don't even know each other," she said.