More info at this website: Lifes of kids after returns to their moms (in Slovak) * More photos & videos * Media appearances (in Slovak) * Book launch (photos & some info in Slovak) * About the author (in Slovak)
A description of David Puchovsky’s book titled ‘Kidnapped’ about two cases of three kidnapped Slovak children that he tracked down on his own as a journalist in July 2014 and March 2015
It starts with a general thought about how evil and tragic children abductions are. One could say that it is worse than a child’s death, as their parent has no idea where his child is, but he knows he or she is somewhere very far and probably still alive.
The first case that involved US citizens/fathers
In the first chapters, I described why I decided to cover and solve abductions of Slovak kids. It all started in November 2013; only a couple of months after I got a full-time contract at the paper “Novy Cas” – the biggest national daily newspaper in Slovakia, owned by the biggest European media house. During the course of that month, an anonymous reader sent a website link to our office. It was a link to a story of a certain US news website detailing the unreal abduction of two boys by their Slovak mother. The problem was that the mother didn’t want to allow meetings between her two kids and their two respective US fathers. During a vacation in Slovakia in 2012, she simply vanished. So when I heard about this case, nearly one and a half year passed without anyone knowing where they are hiding. I got in touch with both fathers; mainly one US father, a famous middle-ranked Hollywood producer with contacts in the music industry. I published several stories, did my first little investigation and met with several weird people and sources. Suddenly, the Slovak mother was found France, near the country’s border with Switzerland. It was about two days before Christmas in 2013. She was found thanks to my stories, because another Slovak person living in France recognized her and called the police. The court case dragged on for several days. Amazingly, I met both fathers and both kids at the airport in Paris on my way to Denver for the Eurolanche Invasion VI. I felt like it was a destiny, because I bought my plane ticket for the trip months before I even heard about the whole story. The court ruled in the fathers’ favor, granting them full custody, while the mother lost all rights. Additionally, it was later revealed that the mother never worked in her entire life, not even while she was in hiding in Europe, earning money as an escort girl. Both boys live a happy life in the USA with their fathers. This case was also reported by ABC’s 20/20 and their anchor David Muir. Their crew came to Slovakia sometime later and I helped them with their report. I appeared on the show for a few seconds and I also appeared on our paper’s final title page. Summing up, this case, my first case was not about real chasing, but about getting experience and contributing to find the abductor’s location through the publishing of specific stories.
So it was kind of a big case that inspired me to follow similar cases that involved more Slovak kids. In February 2014, I met Martina Gajdarova for the first time and I immediately began to work on her case. But before I will continue with a description, I’ll move on to May 2014, when I had to stop my investigation for Martina’s children due to another – and very fresh case.
The abduction of 4-year-old Hesham – a story of a child that was abducted two times during the course of a few months
On May 9, 2014, just one day prior to my birthday, I got a call from my source telling me that a Muslim father abducted his kid; a boy named Hesham and vanished. He climbed the first floor of the apartment building Hesham was living in, brutally attacked his mother-in-law, grabbed then-4-year-old boy and lost. I began to meet with the boy’s family in an effort to find him. They told me the following: the Slovak woman met a Muslim online. They started to date, met in Egypt and came to Slovakia. They married and lived a happy life until she realized he liked many other women. She wanted to divorce, he didn’t like it – at the very least, he wanted to keep the boy and take him to a Muslim country. She refused and was in hiding at a secret place for a month. When the law enforcement forced her to allow a meeting between the boy and his father, the father abducted the boy for the first time. The father locked himself in the boy’s room during the visit, opened the window and jumped from the first floor. Two months later, a doctor from a crisis center in the city of Ceuta that is technically in Spain, but on borders with Morocco and the rest of Africa, called the Slovak authorities that a Slovak boy named Hesham was there. The father couldn’t take care of his ill son, so he placed him there and left. The mother came and was reunited with her boy. Meanwhile, the father was still on the run. Several months later, it was May 2014, when the father re-appeared and grabbed the boy again. So I covered the second abduction of the boy. It is almost surreal that one boy was abducted TWO times during the course of a few months…
I was using fake Facebook profiles and Gmail accounts to communicate with the abductor. He liked talking to me and wanted to meet. He didn’t have money, which was a great benefit for us. He couldn’t move from country to country like he did during the first abduction. At first, he told me to meet him in London. Unfortunately, it was not easy to coordinate both Slovak and British authorities from day to day in preparation for his arrest, so I moved our meeting to Paris. You have to take into account that at the time, I still had no idea where he really was and I simply had to believe him. Slovak authorities were OK with the meeting in Paris. I passed them the time and place of the meeting and then I waited for something to happen. The result? The abductor contacted me after the supposed time of the meeting, asking me where I am. I made some emergency calls, but nobody could tell me anything. I had no idea if the Slovak or French authorities failed or if he lied. After the weekend, I was called in for a big meeting with the Slovak authorities. They had nothing to say. They had no idea what was going on whatsoever, so I decided to stop cooperating with them. Sadly, the abductor realized I was using a fake account and blocked me on Facebook.
It was a miracle, when just a few days later I found out about a secret method (that I will not describe to anybody) and located the abductor in Budapest, Hungary, which is only 2-hour drive away from Bratislava. Exactly one week after my infamous meeting with the Slovak authorities, I, my Slovak friend who speaks Hungarian and two big guys hired by the boy’s family as physical support, went to Budapest to locate the abductor. We had no address, only the name of the city. We spent the day walking around places we thought he might stay at. A lot of times, we followed the wrong Muslim guy with a small kid, believing it was him. Yes, we almost arrested the wrong guys.
After 12 hours of walking, I was sitting with my friend in front of a hostel, where the abductor stayed during the early weeks of his hiding, but not anymore. I was on the brink of crying and I felt tired like never before. Suddenly, he appeared with a boy riding a bicycle. I started to follow them, but ultimately lost track of them as they were faster. I reunited with the two big guys and almost arrested another wrong Muslim. On my way back, I spotted the abductor with the boy once again, I ran right onto the 4-lane main road and stopped the incoming police car. I started to explain who I was and who I was following. They took me away from the road. My friend came and talked to them in Hungarian. Meanwhile, the abductor got lost again. After 6 minutes of talking and explaining, the abductor reappeared again. I pointed at him and shouted at the policemen that it was him. They started to run and successfully caught him. He tried to escape, but it was too late and he had no chance. We were all brought to the police station. The mother came to meet her boy after almost three months on the exact evening he disappeared.
The abductor was transported to Slovakia thanks to the existing agreements within the European Union member states. He had remained in pre-trial custody for one year. Finally, he was sent to a place where people from third-world countries stayed during their immigration process. Before the court sentenced him, he was banned from the whole European Union for five years. Nobody knows what will happen after those five years and if ever comes back to Slovakia, along with other immigrants with fake IDs. I know he wants to be with his boy again...
The Panama case (the book is mainly about this one) – the longest and the most mysterious child abduction case in Slovak history
Following the end of the previous case, I returned to Martina Gajdarova. It was the only case of child abduction where both parents and abducted children were Slovak citizens (Muslim males are involved in the majority of abduction cases in Slovakia – and only a handful of those kids are ever found again). This was what I heard about her story: She gave birth to a boy named Martin and a girl named Dominika. Her husband was weird in many ways, having no social contacts at all. Most of the time, he just sat at home and worked on his PC, selling porn videos, domains etc. He didn’t want to divorce, so on January 2, 2011 he disappeared with the couple’s two kids. He vanished during a planned visit he made every weekend. What happened next is the stuff of nightmares and one could write another 20 pages of a description about it. In short, the abductor’s parents and his brother were supporting him. They took Martina’s and the abductor’s car and kept it. They tried to take her house. They refused to talk with the police, because the law states that close family members don’t have to talk with police, if he/she would cause a problem to the person of interest. So if you live in Slovakia and your parent or brother is a wanted, you do not have to say anything about him and you can secretly be in contact. Martina lost all hope, as well as hundreds of thousands Euros for private detectives. Three years later, she met me, a crazy guy who was willing to help her free of charge.
It took me months to locate the abductor – Andrej Gajdar. I had to find out what his secret life in Slovakia before the abduction was about. I followed all of his activities, websites, profiles... But didn’t find anything new. His last activity that I tracked down was from 2012, one year after the abduction. I even did a little investigation on my own during a private holiday in New York and in Switzerland. I wrote two 20-page reports for Slovak authorities that were willing to cooperate with me. In December 2014, I found a website that might’ve been in the abductor’s ownership. On the website, there was an address in New York. I immediately called the police. Originally, the last lead was that he stayed three months in New York and finally vanished afterwards. So it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he really was staying in NYC. Minutes later, thanks to a hint on this website, I was redirected to a website like Craigslist in the USA, but it was located in Panama, Central America. I saw the abductor’s fake name, his listings offering a car for sale or the service of a fitness trainer. He loved going to gym all the time while still in Slovakia. At this point, I was 100% sure that it was him. Weeks later, I found photos of him and the kids on a website of a certain school in Panama.
Sadly, Panama is not in the European Union. There are no special international contracts between my country and them. Central America is a specific region. For example, Slovakia’s most wanted man, a mafia member named Karol Mello, vanished in Central America. He was found in Belize. He was in custody for three months and was subsequently released. He still lives there as a free man and Belize isn’t willing to extradite him to Europe. I and the Slovak authorities wanted to avoid the same situation from repeating itself in this case. We had many meetings with 10 different people from five different ministries in the following weeks. Finally, we came up with a plan: I and my colleague would travel to Panama as journalists. We would locate the abductor’s exact address; take photos and record a video of him. On the day the Slovak authorities would send their official request to arrest Andrej Gajdar, we appear at the police station with our investigation and with the support of the local media. Our role was to pressure the local authorities face-to-face, because it is not allowed for an official authority of any country in the world to travel abroad and do work on his or her own. He or she would have to follow local law and instructions and may be sending back to Slovakia for no specific reason at all. But we, neutral persons, we could do anything.
First day in Panama: We sat in our car on a road near houses where we believed the abductor is. For 12 hours. Hot weather. Just checking everybody around and trying not to look suspicious.
Second day: I decided to take a risk. Through my friend and special software, we called the abductor’s number and pretended to be interested in his fitness trainer service. He agreed to meet the following day in a park – with the kids!
Third day: The abductor appeared with the kids. My colleague took photos in front of his house. I was waiting in the park and recorded surveillance video. Afterwards, I canceled the meeting. We had him, but we had to wait for the official documents from Slovakia that were on their way.
Fourth day: We tried to find any media that would support us. Sadly, houses have no numbers there so it was extremely hard to find anything. Also, local reporters could not understand English on the phone and would hang on. After like 8 hours, we finally found the HQ of the biggest local TV in Panama – TVN Panama. When I showed them all the necessary official documents translated into Spanish and a video message of the mother recorded for this exact purpose, they agreed to cover this story and help her.
Fifth day: We visited the local police station, but were sent to other places and then to other because nobody knew what to do. Finally, we visited to some kind of a ministry of international cooperation. Also, an Interpol detective appeared there, who was fluent in English. They confirmed they received official documents from Slovakia and were amazed by our photos and video of the abductor. They told us they would like to arrest the abductor immediately, but their law requires full documentation from the country of origin of the abductor. There were still missing some documents so we had to wait for another couple of days – it turned out to take a whole weekend.
Sixth and seventh day: We didn’t do anything. Most of the time, we were sleeping at the hotel, completely nervous about what was going on and if the abductor wouldn’t attempt to escape in the meantime. We had no idea if he had any ties to the local mafia or politicians. Nobody knew what could happen in the next hour. We took short trips within Panama and witnessed the country’s poverty.
Eighth day: We were sitting in the car again, because we wanted to be sure the police came, but nobody came! Only a police car that checked our IDs, because we were suspicious just sitting there and doing nothing. Fortunately, they let us go, but we decided to go back to the hotel and wait for another day.
Ninth day: Nobody in Slovakia knew what to do. They sent all necessary documents and forced everybody in Panama to arrest the abductor. I was so nervous that I sent my colleague to the abductor’s house again and I did “a tour” of the ministries and police stations, asking about what was going on. The first place I visited was the ministry of foreign relations – when the director of some department found out that I am a journalist, she wanted to call the police on me! She did not accept any of the confirmation documents from the mother and Slovak authorities that I brought exactly for this purpose. It was really crazy and dangerous. The second place I went to visit was the same where the Interpol detective was just a couple of days ago. They told me the abductor is going to be arrested any minute, but I did not believe them after my previous experience in Panama so I went to another official place where they simply did not tell me anything new. I returned to our car to meet my colleague. Suddenly, the abductor appeared. I was really scared, because he was passing our car that couldn’t be parked at a spot further away, because there was no space. Fortunately, he did not spot us and then about 10-15 policemen jumped out of their secret police cars and arrested him.
Tenth day: We recorded reports with the local TV. We still needed their support because the court had to rule whether the mother could take her kids back or if there would be a long process – and we still had no idea what kind of contacts, influence and support the abductor had in the country.
Eleventh day: The mother came, met her kids, but could not take them because court was scheduled for the next day.
Twelfth day: After another tour of different places in Panama with the mother and the officials from Slovakia, there was a final court hearing and everybody believed it would be fast. I was playing with the kids, taking pictures, selfies and I felt like the happiest person in the world. Suddenly, a Panama officer took me out and I was interrogated by the judge! I was told she prohibited anyone in the entire country from making any photos of the kids. I had no idea. One Slovak official, who was supposed to help us, didn’t do anything in the court room and left. Later, I heard this official behaved the same to other Slovak officials who came to Panama! I am going to give a detailed description of what this person did days before her arrival to Panama and during her stay in Panama. In short: she made mistakes in the official documents requested by officials in Panama, meaning they had to be re-send and the whole process of the arrest was delayed; she took the mother and other Slovak officials via special exit at the Panama airport to avoid me, my colleague and the local TV that supported the mother; she did not help me in an emergency case; she ignored every member of the Slovak crew in Panama; she requested a “thank you letter” from the mother, who has never sent it to her etc. When the Slovak authorities learnt what she did from me and other officials, she had to leave her position at the state institution.
So I found myself sitting in the court room alone and being questioned. Those Panama people had no idea about anything. I was the person who found the kids after almost one year of investigation and after more than four years after their initial disappearance. Nobody helped me. I was sitting there like a criminal. I was forced to write down that I will never publish pictures of the kids otherwise I could face a hearing at the international court in Netherlands that is mainly for the war criminals?!!! Of course I published the pictures back in Slovakia... But in that moment, I feared for my own life. I was crying like a little boy in the courtroom. I really had no idea what could happen next in a country where nobody understood who I am. Finally, thanks to this process of mine, the Slovak officials and the mother with her kids missed their scheduled flight and had to stay in Panama for one more day. Nobody knew what could happen in the next 24 hours – if there was a chance the judge would change her mind and take the kids back to the abductor... Or if there was a chance we could get arrested.
Thirteenth day: Our group stayed in hiding at a hotel and waited for our flight. Fortunately, nothing happened and the Slovak officials with the mother and kids could leave the country. I and my colleague left the following day. After more than four years, the case was finally closed.
Back in Slovakia:
The worst was the fact that both kids were in bad physical condition. Their father did not care about their health and kept them locked in the apartment. The boy is 10 and girl 8, but both of them behave like 5-year-old kids. They are making improvements, but it will take years until they will reach the mental level of their peers.
Fortunately, they recognized their mother immediately. According to them, their father told them that their mother is sick. They confirmed the abductor’s family secretly traveled to Panama several times and also revealed many more shocking details. It was not like a nice vacation in hot-weather country with an ocean. It felt like hell for these two kids, who will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.
The abductor was extradited to Slovakia two months later and placed in pre-trial custody. Ultimately, he was sentenced to two years in jail last November. Yes, only two years. But it was the highest sentence he may’ve gotten according to our law. In a reality, my guess is he will be released before the coming summer. What will happen then? Nobody knows…
Description of the photos published in the book – the first part
– the Spanish description of the Panama case, as well as of me and my colleague that we provided to some people in Panama who does not speak English
– details of our flight to Panama
– some key documents of the Panama case (international arrest warrant, marriage document, request to get the kids back from Panama etc)
– the list of all documents in Spanish and English that I’ve been provided by the mother before my trip
– the authorization from the mother that allowed me to represent her in Panama
– the old version of the missing kids’ poster
– the mother of the children received a letter in 2012 saying “your kids are dead”
– the official reports of the kids’ teachers after their arrival to Slovakia (they are saying both kids have huge problems in normal life due to their long abduction)
– the first words of Andrej Gajdar after his extradition to Slovakia
– the cover of the book with all of the documents I took to Panama
– the reference I received in the “Novy Cas” paper when I was leaving, stating that “he has reached a historical success, one of the biggest in our entire history”
Description of the photos published in the book – the second part
– Andrej Gajdar as a kid (his mother dressed him like a girl, which could’ve had an impact on his actions in his adulthood)
– Andrej and Martina on the day they got married
– Martina with her two kids
– official “wanted” and “missing” posters for the Panama case made by Interpol
– Martina prays in a church (this photo was taken for the very first article about this case written by myself in December 2013)
– me standing in front of the main police building in Slovakia holding documents about the Panama case in November 2014
– Dominika holding a diploma with her real name (a photo I found on the website of the Panama school, which was ultimately proof that I located them)
– Andrej and Martin (with the white cap) in one of the photos I found, which was taken by the school in Panama
– Martina holding family photos days prior to our secret trip to Panama
– the big wanted poster that we wanted to hand out in the streets of Panama City in case the authorities would have no interest in arresting Gajdar
– Andrej Gajdar’s ad selling his car (he did not realize his silhouette is captured – the first real lead, days before I found the photos on the school’s website)
– me and my colleague during an interview for TVN Panama (we had to remain anonymous at that time)
– Gajdar leaving his apartment with the kids (the first photo of him and the kids after more than four years)
– Gajdar and the kids arriving at the park for the fake meeting arranged by me (I was just a few feet away from them)
– Gajdar and the kids leaving their apartment building almost one week after the two previous photos were taken (he was arrested seconds after my colleague took this photo)
– the arrest
– the arrest (you can see me holding a camera recorder)
– the first meeting between the mother and the kids after more than four years in Panama
– poverty in Panama
– on board of the plane flying back to Slovakia
– arrival at the airport in Vienna, Austria, one-hour ride away from Bratislava
– first days in Slovakia (Dominika is finally smiling)
– the moment of the arrest of the Muslim abductor from the first case in Budapest, Hungary
– the three kids that I found and me and Martina
All major/national media in Slovakia reported on the Panama case and majority of them did an interview with David. ‘Novy Cas’ newspaper had the biggest coverage amongst them: