'He was pretty shook up,' homeowner says of kidnapped international student found safe
York Regional Police say the investigation into Wanzhen Lu’s kidnapping is “far from over” after the student was found safe and in good health on Tuesday night.
Lu reportedly showed up at a home in Gravenhurst, Ont., more than 150 kilometres away from where he was abducted, in the early evening. Police believe Lu was dropped off in the area by a vehicle before he wandered onto a property on Doe Lake Road.
The homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous out of fears for his safety, told CP24 he was on his front lawn at around 9 p.m. when his dog suddenly began to bark.
It was then that he heard a voice coming from the edge of his property that said, “Help me, I’ve been kidnapped.”
“I couldn’t understand it that well, but I did hear him say something about being kidnapped, so I rushed the dog in the house and grabbed a flashlight and went out to look,” the homeowner said.
“He told me he had been kidnapped and to call the police, which I did immediately.”
The homeowner said Lu appeared disoriented and confused. He noticed pieces of duct tape stuck to his sweater, cuts on his knees and marks on his arms.
Lu told the homeowner that he had been handcuffed and “hooded.”
“That’s why the duct tape was on his hoodie, I guess they pulled it over his head,” he said.
“He was pretty shook up, which I don’t blame him because he had no clue where he was or what happened to him or why it happened to him.”
Within the 10 minutes it took for police to arrive, the homeowner said all Lu could muster was a request for a glass of water.
When Ontario Provincial Police arrived at the home, they quickly confirmed his identity.
The 22-year-old had minor injuries, police said, and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Const. Andy Pattenden said Lu wasn’t in hospital for long and was later returned to York Region, where investigators have been speaking with him about the harrowing ordeal.
“We have obvious safety concerns here, we still have four suspects that are still outstanding in this investigation, four suspects that were willing to go into that underground parking garage and take Mr. Lu with a significant amount of force, load him into a van and basically keep him, wherever they kept him, for more than 72 hours,” Pattenden said.
“Now the investigation is focused on the suspects themselves.”
While it is believed that Lu was targeted, the motive for the abduction is still under investigation.
“There’s a lot that we need to learn now Mr. Lu is obviously going to be the best source of information,” Pattenden said.
“Our investigators are working through every lead still... They continue to come in.”
Lu was with a friend in the underground parking garage of his Markham condo building on Saturday evening when a minivan sped up next to them and a group of masked men jumped out.
The group attacked Lu and Tasered him multiple times before forcing him into the van and taking off. The van was located on Monday abandoned at an undisclosed location in Toronto.
Police have expressed shock at the level of violence involved in the abduction, describing the case as a rarity not only for York Region but for the country.
A ransom for Lu’s return was never made and police have not made contact with the suspects.
Over the past four days, the Chinese international student’s family travelled to Canada from China and spoke with investigators.
Yorkville University confirmed Wednesday that Lu, who also goes by the name Peter, is studying business administration at their Vaughan campus.
The school’s senior vice-president, Walter Lee, said both staff and students have been feeling “anxious” since news of their classmate’s abduction broke on Saturday.
Lee said it was a “huge relief” for the school community when Lu was found safe.
“At this stage we’re really giving Peter and his family (some space) and are respecting their privacy,” Lee told reporters at an afternoon news conference.
“We’ll be here to offer any supports we can at the time he’s ready to come back to school, but for now our focus is really on the students who are here, the staff who are here, who have experienced some anxiety around this.”
Lee said counsellors are on hand at the campus for those who need extra support.
Both York U and police have been in touch with the Chinese consulate since Lu’s disappearance.
“It’s truly great that Mr. Lu has been found safe,” Wei Zhao, a spokesperson for the Chinese consulate in Toronto, said in a statement to CP24.
“As the investigation is still an ongoing process, we have no further information to release.”
Pattenden said police poured “every resource available” into finding Lu, but that the focus has now turned to his kidnappers.
“This investigation is far from over,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to pursue these suspects and find out wherever they are.”
Investigators remain in Gravenhurst where Lu turned up last night. About a one-kilometre stretch of Doe Lake Road has been blocked off to allow officers to conduct a ground search for evidence.
“What we’re looking for is any evidence or clues that might lead to the direction by which the kidnapping victim travelled or any clues leading to the identities of the suspects,” York police Const. Mike Lacroix said.
“Perhaps there could be some footprints in the snow that might determine the path that the victim had taken, anything that might’ve been dropped… We know tire impressions can sometime be very helpful clues. (We’re looking for) anything like that might be evidentiary in nature.”
The 35-year-old Toronto man who was taken into custody in connection with the incident on Tuesday has also been released without charge.
Pattenden said investigators believe the man “was part of this kidnapping” but that the evidence they had wasn’t enough to support a criminal charge. He refused to provide any further details on the man’s identity or level of involvement.
He again urged the four suspects to turn themselves in to police.
“We’re following up on every tip and every lead that we get,” he said.
“We will figure this out. It’s just a matter of time."
The suspects are all believed to be male. The first suspect was wearing blue pants and a jacket, the second suspect was wearing a black Canada Goose jacket, the third suspect was wearing dark blue jeans and black jacket, and the fourth was wearing a green or yellow jacket with a hood.
Anyone with information about the investigation is being urged to contact York Regional Police or Crime Stoppers anonymously.