- We all would’ve been better off without this particular horror story coming to life
We’ve covered events that resembled famous movie scenes before. This is one more of those, but this time the genre has switched to horror.
On July 7, Dutch police officers raiding a criminal gang’s hideout made a bloodcurdling discovery. The gang had constructed a torture chamber that could just as well have been a set for one of the ultraviolent Saw films.
The police discovered seven shipping containers in a warehouse used by the gang in the town of Wouwse Plantage in southern Netherlands. The criminals had converted six of the containers into makeshift prison cells, according to the Dutch Public Prosecution Service.
Each container’s walls were lined with heat-insulating foil and sound-proof plates to muffle the intended victims’ screams. Metal handcuffs had been attached to the walls, floor and ceiling, and a single chemical toilet was the only furnishing.
The gang had fitted the containers with cameras to keep an eye on their would-be prisoners. Additionally, sets of police clothing, bulletproof vests and flashlights laid on the floor of one of the containers.
The Heart of Darkness
But the true horror of the gang’s intentions became clear only when the police entered the seventh container.
In it, they found a dental chair with handcuffs and straps to keep the victim’s limbs in place. In addition to the chair, the container held a sickening collection of implements of torture.
“The police found pruning shears, loppers, branch saws, scalpels, pliers, extra handcuffs, finger cuffs, tape, balaclavas and black cotton bags that could be pulled over the victim’s head,” the Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.
“The objects were presumably intended to torture or at least put pressure on victims.”
Adjacent to the torture chamber, the gang had built a sitting and sleeping area. The police suspect its purpose was to allow guards and torturers to stay in the warehouse longer and reduce suspicious traffic.
The warehouse also housed a weapons cache, with seven small firearms and a Chinese variant of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. In investigations related to the torture chamber, the police found 17 more firearms and more than 50 pounds of the drug MDMA.
Six people have been arrested over the discovery of the torture chamber. Their impressively long list of suspected crimes includes “preparation for kidnapping, taking hostages, serious abuse and extortion, participation in a criminal organization, and possessions of illegal weapons”.
Covering Two Bases
The Dutch police got onto the gang’s tracks in April, when they arrested a 40-year-old man from The Hague. The man was involved in drug trafficking, and investigations into his finances revealed that he used a warehouse in Wouwse Plantage.
The police immediately put the warehouse they had found out about under surveillance. Since mid-April, they observed men working on the seven cargo containers on a nearly daily basis.
They also found out about a second warehouse the gang was using near the city of Rotterdam. Several of the people spotted in Wouwse Plantage were also seen there.
“The second warehouse seemed to serve as the base for the criminal abduction team, housing fast cars, weapons and bullet-proof vests,” said the Prosecution Service.
Hacking the Communications
In a separate investigation, the police got access to the encrypted chat network EncroChat. The police intercepted the gang’s messages and at times they could even follow their conversations as they happened.
You can only imagine the cops’ reactions when they read the disturbing messages.
The gang members sent each other pictures of the “treatment room” they were constructing. They talked about kidnapping and torture, and the intricately planned plot to carry out the abductions.
“If I have him on the chair, more will come,” one message read. We probably really don’t want to know what that “more” is.
However, with their meticulous planning the criminals’ ended up sabotaging their own plot. Through the messages the police were able to deduce the identities of the gang’s intended victims.
“They were warned by the police and went into hiding. As a result, and thanks to continuous CCTV surveillance in and near the warehouse, the prepared kidnappings, hostage-taking and other serious violent crimes were prevented,” the Prosecution Service said.
A Criminal Network
The EncroChat service that became a crucial source of evidence and clues in the case is a now-defunct communication network. It operated out of France and at its height had an estimated 60,000 users, according to the BBC.
Accessed through customized Android phones, the system offered encrypted communications with the messages set to self-destruct after being read. It also had a “panic button” that would wipe all data on the user’s device.
Gee, it almost sounds like the thing was tailor-made for shady activities. Wonder why it got shut down.
An international team cracked the system’s encryption in April, said the Independent. The security breach gave law enforcement officials a chance to take peek inside the network.
Surprise, surprise – the cops found out that the secretive messaging service was used by criminals the world round. Matt Horne, deputy director of the UK National Crime Agency, said the “Encrophones” had become a “requirement” in organized crime.
Since the police got access to the network in April, they have made 746 arrests in the UK alone. In addition, they have seized more than $68 million in cash, 77 firearms, 1,800 rounds of ammunition, and more than two metric tons of various drugs.
Now they can add a fully-equipped torture chamber to that list. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that they caught it before it was ever used.
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