Unsolved Mysteries (2020-…): Season 3, Episode 9 - Abducted by a Parent - full transcript

Two different single parents were blindsided when their children were abducted by their non-custodial parent. They cannot and will not stop searching for their children, who could be anywhere in the world.

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[child giggling] No!

- [woman] Oh, no!
- [child laughing]

[Abdul Khan] My son
was my whole world,

and one day I'm gonna find him.

[dark music playing]

Everything had been thrown out,
and the entire place was cleaned.

They were just gone.
There was nothing left.

[Daphney Frederique] Oh, my God.

He took the kids.

[Abdul] Every day our hope was that
he's coming back, but there was nothing.

He disappeared without a trace.

[Rebecca Downey]
Everything was turned upside down,

and everything that I believed to be
true is not true.

There is no playbook
for kidnapping.

[mysterious music playing]

[boy] Marty, you're up!

You can't go down.

You can do whatever you want!

[Rebecca] When I
dream about my kids,

sometimes they're in trouble,
and I have to get to them.

And sometimes we're just
spending time doing the things

that we like to do together.

For that moment…

they're alive,

and they're with me.

[voice breaking] So I love dreaming about
my kids because they're actually there.

[bittersweet music playing]

I met Ahmed Kandil when I was 28
and he was 30.

I was planning to
go to medical school,

and he was pursuing an MBA
in order to spend more time in finance.

When we initially started dating,
all of our dates were sports,

whether it was playing soccer,
going to volleyball group, racquetball.

Gosh, we used to
go dancing a lot.

Every Friday, it was either
East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing.

We did all sorts of great dance routines,
and it was really fun.

Ahmed grew up in
Cairo. He's Muslim.

I grew up in Berlin.

And my background was Christian,

but what I felt really
brought us together

is that we both came
from a very middle-class upbringing,

and so we had some
of the same values

even if we came
from different religious backgrounds.

Ahmed and I knew each other
a couple of years before we got married.

And then, nine months later,

my daughter Amina was born
September 1st, 2003.

It was just about three weeks
after I started medical school.

Then right between
second and third year,

my son Belel was born
on January 4th, 2006.

Amina is such a warm person.

She's a little bit
more shy than her brother,

but she has this core of inner strength
that comes through every once in a while.

Belel is more outward and fun-oriented
in a lot of ways.

And he engaged everyone.

[Daphney] Rebecca and I met
first day of residency in Boston

and subsequently followed each other
to Virginia for a job.

And when Rebecca and Ahmed
first moved to Virginia…

[child vocalizing
and laughing on video]

[Daphney] Every Wednesday
was dinner night.

[child on video] Hey!

[Daphney] We had
sleepover nights for the kids,

game nights,

and Ahmed was
always very welcoming.

He took good care of the kids.

He was a good dad.

[Rebecca] But he, at that point,
was actually not working.

He had a job in Boston.

And then, in the financial crisis,
had lost his employment there.

After 2008, finance was just not
a very good area to be working in.

From that point,

Ahmed did not ever show interest
in getting a job.

He smiled less, and
he was less positive

and not open at all
to any dialogue or discussion.

He regarded me
solely focused towards the children,

and within my
function as a mother,

more so than as a
woman or a professional.

So he really was not the same person
that he was when I met him.

Ahmed would have just stayed together
the way that we were,

but I was the one
who was not happy.

So Ahmed and I
separated in June 2013.

After we separated,

I would get the
kids for two weekdays

and Ahmed would
have them the other weekdays.

And then we would basically
split the weekends.

But Ahmed tried to make it very difficult
for Rebecca to see Amina and Belel

because Rebecca
was the working parent.

[Rebecca] He was also moving in a much
more conservative religious direction,

and Amina and Belel were attending
the school at the mosque on Saturdays.

So it became abundantly clear

that Ahmed was on one trajectory
in how he wanted the kids to be raised,

and I felt I was pretty squarely
on a very different trajectory.

It was the Thursday
before Labor Day.

The children were gonna go with Ahmed
to Toronto to look at a college

for their cousin.

He said that he was gonna be returning
on September 1st, that Monday,

which is Amina's birthday.

She was turning 11 years old.

So he expected to be
back in the country at that point.

When Ahmed came
to pick up the children,

we were sitting on the couch,
watching something on the iPad.

[knock on door]

Belel immediately ran over
to the front door

and had to show it to his father,
then immediately ran out to the car.

And I told Amina
that it was time to go.

And right at the door, she gave me a hug,
gave me two kisses.

I told her that she should have
a good weekend in Toronto with her cousins

and that I was looking forward
to wishing her a happy birthday

not too much longer after that.

- [ominous music playing]
- [car starting]

I watched them driving off.

That was the last
time I saw my kids.

music playing softly]

On Friday, the day after
the kids got picked up in the evening,

I texted Ahmed and told him
that I want to call Amina on her birthday.

He confirmed that
he was gonna be back on the first.

I didn't have any contact with them
on Saturday and Sunday,

but on Monday, I tried to call him
multiple times on his cell phone,

and he wouldn't pick up.

And at that point, September 1st,
he really should have been back.

It was infuriating
not to be able to reach my children.

I called multiple times from the hospital
and couldn't get a response.

It was a little disconcerting,
although it wasn't unusual for him.

Just a passive-aggressive move

not to let me talk to my daughter
on her birthday.

So that night, I texted Ahmed
to please tell Amina happy birthday.

That Tuesday, September 2nd,

Amina was gonna go to middle school
for the first time,

and Belel was going back
to elementary school.

So my sense was that
if the kids were in school,

then everything was fine.

But I called both
schools in the morning.

They told me that they weren't there
and that they hadn't shown up that day.

At that point, I got
really concerned,

and panicked,
and angry, and…

ugh, just hurt,
and really concerned about the kids.

The problem was
that I was at my remote clinic,

where I'm the only anesthesiologist around
and there was still patients to be seen.

And I can't leave.

I contacted the police that day,
and I called every hospital in Toronto

just to see if maybe they had
possibly gotten into an accident.

And then I called
Ahmed's father in Egypt,

and I asked him where Ahmed was
and what had happened.

He didn't know what
I was talking about.

And he wasn't concerned,
which concerned me.

And that, to me, was a real warning sign
that he must have known something.

So I called Daphney

and I asked if she could
please check Ahmed's house for me.

[ominous music continues]

[Daphney] When I went to the house,
there were no cars.

And nobody was home.

And the windows were blocked.

So I went to the
back of the house.

There was a curtain
that was pulled aside,

and I looked
through a glass door,

and I knew that
something bad had happened.

I called Rebecca and I told her,

"The house is empty,
completely empty."

She told me that everything was gone.
There's nothing left.

[dramatic music playing]

The bottom just fell out…

and I was in a free fall.

There's just no other
way to describe it.

I mean, everything is torn away from you,
and everything was turned upside down.

I don't know what's going on.

But moments later, they'd said
that we needed to intubate a patient.

So I remember going
right back to work.

I was in tears. I
couldn't stop crying.

The surgeon and entire team
looked up and said, "Are you okay?"

And I said,
"I'm really not."

"I don't know
where my kids are."

[sighs] It's just like simultaneously
being crushed, and panicked,

and just sliced open.

[tense music playing]

On that Friday,

the James City County
Police Department

explained that
the flight records had been found,

and it was clear that Ahmed and the kids
did not in fact travel to Canada.

They actually flew
from JFK through Kyiv,

and from Kyiv then to Istanbul,
then in Turkey.

That was really shocking,

and that frightened me
in ways I can't even describe to you.

[Stacey Sullivan] The FBI became
involved with the case in September 2014,

and immediately
after the FBI was tipped off

that Amina and Belel
had been taken by their father,

a federal arrest warrant
was issued for Ahmed

by the Eastern
District of Virginia

for two counts of
international parental kidnapping,

one for Belel and one for Amina.

And one of the first steps to
the initial part of the investigation was

to do a thorough review
of his financials,

looking for anything
that would lead to Ahmed and the children.

[Rebecca] When I looked
through bank records

and credit card
records from the FBI,

it was shocking to me.

Ahmed had gone to a survivalist camp
that was up in the mountains.

He went to a shooting club
to learn how to shoot guns multiple times.

He was never a gun fanatic.

Survival training
would be helpful to anyone

if they were crossing through borders,
doing some things on foot,

spending a couple days outside.

He also bought
different types of camping equipment,

such as sleeping bags,
boots for the children,

and he sent them overseas.

So those are little things
that showed that Ahmed

didn't just take his
children on a whim.

He had a well-oiled plan
before he left the country.

[Rebecca] But now
I needed to find my children.

I checked Amina's email account
multiple times,

and the tablet
that the children had

was used to check Amina's email address
in December 2014.

When I looked at the IP address
of where that tablet was,

it was in the Hatay province
close to the city of Reyhanli,

which is in
that little southern tip of Turkey

that's right on
the border to Syria.

That was close to a war zone.

[artillery shells firing]

That frightened me.
That really, really frightened me.

Because I thought,
"What does that mean?"

Has Ahmed joined something that he
was not supposed to…

that he was not supposed to join
and pulled my children into?

That maybe he was in a really unsafe place
with my kids right now,

and I don't know where they are.

I can't keep them safe anymore.

[Stacey] We don't
know where he was going.

And whether Ahmed has changed his name,
his children's name,

created new identities.

These are all possibilities.

And potentially that's a reason
they can't be tracked.

[Rebecca] I was
actively involved

in just trying to find
any way to reach my children.

I've hired three different
private investigators,

and I've contacted
congressmen and senators.

I set up a web page
that allowed me to say,

"I am looking
for my children."

"If you know anything,
please get in touch."

But nothing seemed
to be substantive…

until September 2015,

about a year
since Ahmed had abducted the kids,

I received an email that was simply
called "Kids are okay."

And it was from Ahmed.

"Just wanted to let you know
that they are well and doing great."

"We live on a small farm,
and they are loving it."

"They got all kinds of animals,
and it's keeping them busy."

"I understand you must be angry at me,
but you left me no other choice."

"I knew long before you asked
for a divorce that it is coming,

and I wasn't going to wait
till you find a job somewhere

and take full
custody of them."

"So once they're old enough
and can distinguish right from wrong,

they will contact you."

"And at the right age, they can decide
where they want to live."

It was an infuriating email.

On the one hand, it was a relief
to hear that my kids were alive.

It was also clear to me that
the kids were being heavily influenced

to adopt whatever approach to life
Ahmed felt was appropriate,

and he was gonna influence them

to the point that they probably
would never want to contact me.

What was found out about the email
was that the recovery email address

was one of Ahmed's
known email addresses.

It was clearly from him,

and it originated
in that same area in Turkey

where Amina's email address
had previously been checked.

That same small part
that's close to Syria.

I got the contact of
a Turkish detective

who went down to Southern Turkey
that's close to the Syrian border,

looking for the kids there,

looking for the IP address
of this particular email.

He found an Internet café
that this might have been attributable to,

but he really did not find out
any information over and above

what the state department, the police,
and the FBI were able to recover.

So there had been absolutely nothing
for quite a while.

That was a really
hard period of time.

And then I found out that Ahmed applied
for an Egyptian ID card in 2016.

And he registered his ID
at his parents' address in Giza.

If that is true,
and along with Ahmed's email in 2015

saying they're on a farm
surrounded by animals,

tied with Rebecca's understanding
that Ahmed's father also owned a farm

located midway between
Cairo and Alexandria.

It's probably the best clue that we have
that they are possibly in Egypt.

[Rebecca] So I
hired an investigator

trying to work together
with people in Egypt

to see if there was
any trace of the kids

or if they were seen anywhere
around Ahmed's parents,

but they didn't
come up with anything.

I really wanted to go to Egypt,

but I've been intently
warned against going there.

I am not protected overseas.

Anyone can come up
with any kind of charges.

So it's, from what I hear,
a very unwise idea.

[Stacey] The fact that
we believe Ahmed is overseas

makes things a lot more challenging
because, specifically in Egypt,

parental kidnapping
is not considered a crime.

He's a biological parent
of these children.

They're his children,
just like they're Rebecca's children.

[Rebecca] The father can decide
what he wants to do with those children.

I, as a mother, don't have any possibility
of getting those children back

or even forcing
communication with them.

There's really
no recourse…

and that's so unfair.

[Daphney] I don't know
why they haven't contacted Rebecca,

but I'm wondering if
he didn't stage some accident

and told the kids she's dead

or just banned
them from the Internet

because there's absolutely no way
in the world

Amina and Belel
would not have contacted Mom.

They adored their mom,
and their mom adored them.

[somber music playing]

"January 4th, 2017."

"Belel, today's your birthday,

and though I'm sad
that I'm not with you,

I hope you're surrounded by happiness,
hope, fun, and kindness."

The loss of not having my kids
is so great.

It would be crippling
to feel that emotional impact

every time I enter the house.

So, I write in a journal
to them every day,

and that's when
I really allow myself to feel.

And to feel close to them again.

[somber music continues]

[Stacey] She writes to them
every single day.

She made it very personal.
These are her children.

She didn't deserve
to have them taken from her.

So my heart breaks for Rebecca,
and the fact that she has gone so long,

and that we haven't
been able to provide the answers for her

that she and her
children deserve.

It's not their fault,

and they deserve to know
that their mother cares about them.

[kids chatting indistinctly]

[kid] Mom! Mom!

[indistinct chatter continues]

[Rebecca] I miss both of you,
Amina and Belel, so much.


I hope that I have an opportunity
to see the people that you've grown into,

the people that you are now,

and how lovely you must be,
and how curious about the world.

[thunder breaking]

[sinister music playing]

[Abdul] Aziz was
born on November 13, 2010.

And that day changed my life.

[Rubina Khan] We were all there
the day that he was born,

and Aziz was the greatest blessing
to our family.

He brought such
joy to our house…

- [Rubina on video] Yay!
- [Abdul laughing]

[Rubina] Yay!

[Rubina] …and Abdul
really loved spending time with him.

- [Abdul] Go! Catch him!
- [Rubina] Oh, my God! Catch him!

- Catch him!
- [Abdul] Go left! Go left!

[Abdul] Aziz's mother, Rabia,
was born in Columbus, Georgia.

Her family's originally
from India and Pakistan.

We met in Alabama
when we were in school,

and, uh, it was
actually my mom introduced us.

Rabia was in undergrad.

She's a very strong personality.

She's somebody that makes it a point
to know what she wants

and demand what she wants.

And for someone
who also has a strong personality,

we were attracted to each other.

Over the course of a few years,
we realized that we wanted to get married.

And when Aziz was first born, we actually
lived with my parents in New Orleans.

[Rabia on mic] Oh, wow!

[all laughing]

[Abdul on video] Oh, wow!

[Abdul] But Rabia had a hard time
getting along with them.

And it was very clear
that we couldn't live in the house.

And so we moved out.

I'm a pulmonologist
that works in an intensive care unit,

and Rabia initially worked at
the same hospital I did

for a very short period of time,
and then she quit that job.

And then she worked
at a local cancer agency.

And then she left that job.

She would always find a reason
to change her jobs.

She didn't like somebody.
She didn't like her boss.

Her personality
was, um, very guarded.

And you never got the feeling
that you really knew who she was.

[Abdul] As Aziz grew older,
we started having lots of problems.

You know, fighting
was almost daily.

There were arguments
in front of Aziz.

So in April 2014, we
decided to separate.

She requested that
she go back to Atlanta

because that's where
her family support was.

I really agreed
with her initially

because I thought
if she needs help with Aziz,

that it might be a good idea.

And she made it seem like,

"We're still working on this marriage.
Let's try to make this work."

It was hard for me,

but we basically had an agreement
where we did every other weekend.

So I just thought,
"This is temporary."

[Rubina] And after several months,
out of left field,

- Abdul was served with divorce papers.
- [menacing music playing]

And it was a shock.

[Abdul] It all changed.

Rabia would put up hindrances
and roadblocks,

trying to stop me
from seeing Aziz.

She would schedule soccer games
during my weekends

and would make up excuses
about him being sick.

She would try to prevent him
from seeing me.

[Rubina] It seems
that during that whole period,

she was meeting with lawyers.

She was finding
out about custody.

She was figuring out
what she needed to do

in order to keep
Aziz in Atlanta.

[Abdul] Ultimately,
Rabia wanted Aziz

to have nothing to do
with his life in New Orleans.

[Rubina] And then
once she filed divorce papers,

Rabia blocked
Abdul from seeing Aziz,

and he had to go to court,

and have her
served with papers…

[man] Rabia.

[Rubina] …to have them inform
her that he had a right to see his child.

The divorce was
finalized in 2015.

But Rabia still kept
Aziz from his dad.

[Abdul] And that's what led me
to push hard for a custody evaluation.

I wanted to have the right
to spend as much time with my son

that was allowed.

And it was right about a year later
when the custody evaluators recommended

that I get primary custody of Aziz
because they felt like Rabia

was not allowing me to spend my due time
and be a good dad for Aziz.

[Rubina] When Rabia found out

that Abdul was going to be awarded
full primary custody of Aziz,

she went to the courts

and made these horrific, baseless
abuse allegations against Abdul.

[Abdul] She went into
the criminal court system

making accusations
that me and my family were abusive

in order to delay the court evaluation
from happening,

and it turned into this whirlwind
where a lot of lawyers got involved,

and it became about
a year and a half of investigation.

But what made it so hard
was that I wasn't allowed to see Aziz.

That was really tough.

And then as all
of the court stuff progressed,

we became aware that Rabia had been
in a relationship with someone else.

[Abdul] Elliot Bourgeois was
a friend of hers that she knew in college.

Towards the end of our marriage,
when we were having problems,

there were some phone
calls between them.

So at some point,
when our marriage was ending,

was when they were reconnecting.

Elliott started coming to court
with Rabia.

And that's how we found out that
Elliott and Rabia were actually married.

[Abdul] He wasn't a lawyer,
but she fired three or four lawyers.

Her and Elliot became
their own lawyers,

and they represented themselves
when they came to court.

And with time, every judge
that they went in front of

started seeing their lies
and manipulation.

And then finally, after
18 months of thorough investigation,

the DA in Atlanta realized
that all the accusations were all false,

and I was going to get
full custody for Aziz.

We were to meet on November 28, 2017
in an Atlanta courtroom,

and that's when all the restrictions
were gonna be lifted.

It was really gonna happen.
So there was this joy.

[sinister music playing]

We get to the Atlanta courtroom.
We're waiting for our case.

The judge shows up,
and Rabia is not there.

[Rubina] There was a momentary panic
amongst our family,

but we just thought,
"Okay, this is Rabia being Rabia."

"She's gonna try to throw something else
at us to try to prolong this."

[Abdul] We waited several hours
thinking or hoping that there was a delay.

But Rabia didn't show up.

[tense music playing]

I left the courthouse,

and I didn't have my son.

At this point, I'm very worried.
I'm calling his school.

His school says that
they haven't seen him for a week.

He didn't come to school
the week before Thanksgiving.

The last time they saw him
was the Friday before.

I make phone calls to her family
and we don't get any response.

And then finally,
we realized that she kidnapped him.

That's what was happening.

She kidnapped him and ran.



It was confusing.

You know? It
didn't seem real.

And Abdul was terrified.

[voice breaking] It was as if…
removing his heart.

He always said the
nights were the toughest for him,

like in the quiet.

That's when he

has time with his
thoughts, you know…

to think about
his life with Aziz.

[somber music playing]

[Abdul] I remember
the last time I saw Aziz.

It was March 2016.

It was just a normal weekend.

He had a lot of fun.
We took a lot of pictures.

But I said, "Hey, Aziz,
it's time for you to leave."

And I put him in her car.

And he used
to always, uh…

[voice breaking]

…he'd put up his
hands, and he'd say,

"Baba, how many days
before I see you again?"

[stifling tears]
I was like, "Five more days."

They drove off,
and my thought was,

"Hey, I'm gonna see you in five days,
'cause it's my weekend."

"I'm on spring break."

That was, you know, four…
four-plus years ago.

[dark music playing]

[Rubina] We thought
Rabia was crazy.

We thought that
she was vindictive,

but we never thought
that Rabia was capable of this.

[Abdul] We hired private eye
after private eye

in Atlanta, in New Orleans,

in other places around the country
to find any information about Aziz.

The first thing that
everyone said was

that I need to get
national law enforcement involved

to investigate Aziz's abduction,

but there has to be a felony warrant
out for Rabia.

And, initially, there was some
disagreement between police departments

that the jurisdiction
is in Atlanta or New Orleans.

Finally, after two years,

the court gave a felony
kidnapping warrant

against Rabia for
the abduction of Aziz.

Once there was a felony kidnapping
warrant against Rabia,

the US Marshals got
involved in the case.

[Brian Fair] The US Marshals
got involved in early 2020,

and the US Marshals involvement

was about three years or so
behind the actual disappearance.

So we're basically starting off
way behind already.

We conducted multiple interviews
in several states.

Deputy US Marshals
from the Northern District of Georgia

went out to Duluth

and attempted to interview
Rabia's mother and father.

They were being evasive
during questioning,

and they appeared to not be concerned
about where their daughter was,

where their grandchild was,
or where Elliot was located.

They just referred everything
to their attorney.

[suspenseful music playing]

[Abdul] After talking
to the US Marshals,

I found out that this was something
that Rabia and Elliott planned out.

I mean, it was
cold and calculated.

Rabia and Elliot
had taken Aziz out of school

ten days prior to November 28.

They sold their cars
to CarMax in Atlanta.

Elliot had quit his job.

They both shut down their cell phones,
closed their bank accounts,

closed all their social media,
and they disappeared.

[Brian] If they assume new identities,
they could get new employment.

Maybe establish lines of credit,
create a whole new lifestyle.

It's obviously been done before.

Or, if somebody were to finance them,
they could also be living off cash.

Could be friends.
Could be family. I don't know.

[Abdul] This is the
day he was born.

[Rubina] God.

[Abdul] We've done
everything that we can think of

to find some trace
of Aziz, Rabia, Elliot.

His laugh…

Was contagious.

- Was everything. Contagious.
- Yeah.

[Abdul] And outside of
when they sold their cars in 2017,

we have yet to find
any credible link to them in any way.

That's what makes this so hard.

Four years later,
we still don't have any sign of them.

But if you think that
we're going away…

If you think that Abdul, or me,

or my family is
ever gonna stop looking for Aziz,

you are sorely mistaken

'cause we will never, never rest

until he's returned.

[somber music playing]

[Abdul] When Aziz disappeared,

time literally stopped.

So to me…

he left yesterday.

And so I think
about him every day,

and I do things every day
to try to find him.

I'm gonna keep
fighting till I see him.

And one day
he's gonna walk through a door,

and I'm gonna be standing
on the other side.

It's time for him to come home.

[somber music continues]


[mysterious music playing]