By Michael MacLeod
ARMED gangsters in Halloween masks kidnapped and held a teenager hostage after a drugs deal backfired.
Terrified Aaron Hunter, 16, was bundled into the back of a 4×4 by thugs from Glasgow at lunchtime on Friday because they thought he knew about a £100,000 drug deal paid for by counterfeit cash.
He was driven over 200 miles from his Edinburgh home to another gang in Warrington, who phoned his horrified parents and threatened to kill their boy by noon on Saturday if their demands were not met.
But with police helping behind the scenes, the Hunters spoke to the men and a shaken Aaron was released at 5pm.
Neighbours in Clermiston Place told of how the “harmless” youngster was “an innocent victim.”
Detectives from forces in Edinburgh, Merseyside and Strathclyde are now working together to trace the men responsible.
Another of the family’s neighbours, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw the kidnappers.
She said: “I saw about half a dozen guys in hooded tops walking along our road before the police came and it’s possible that was them.
“They were wearing cardboard masks so I thought they were trick or treating for Halloween, but I did find it suspicious they weren’t knocking on people’s doors.
“They did look scary and walked by my house twice then headed towards the end of the road where the family live.
“It’s a shock this could happen here, but police have been in the area all weekend so we knew something was wrong.”
Police said Aaron had no connection with the drugs deal, believed to involve an Edinburgh dealer who paid £100,000 in counterfeit cash for heroin to a Liverpool gang.
The gangsters returned to the capital and randomly took Aaron to ransom when they couldn’t trace the dodgy dealer.
Police said they launched a “full scale” operation to track down the teenager, until he contacted local police in Cheshire.
They said he was badly shaken up by the ordeal and is now with his family, who are staying with relatives for their own safety.
The Hunters’ shocked next-door neighbours, Karen Thomson and Gary Williams, said they were stunned to hear of Aaron’s abduction.
Mr Williams, 21, said: “He must have been an innocent victim here, picked at random, because there’s no way he’d be looking for that type of trouble.
“The poor boy’s parents must have been shocked and worried.”
Miss Thomson, 22, added: “You always see him in the garden doing weights, playing football or riding his bike like any other wee laddie.
“He’s got good pals and is one of the last people you’d expect to get caught up in this sort of thing.”
Police are using CCTV from across the city to identify the black 4×4 used to transport Aaron to England.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “Police are investigating the abduction of a 16-year-old male that happened in Edinburgh on Friday morning.
“He was abducted from an address in Clermiston Place sometime between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, by a group of males who were using a black four-door vehicle.
“A full-scale police operation was launched, and the individual was traced in the Warrington area on Saturday night. He has since been returned safe and well to his family.
“We want anyone who was in the area of Clermiston Place at around the time the abduction took place, or who saw the vehicle used by the suspects, to contact police immediately.
“We would like to stress that serious crime in Edinburgh remains low, and any risk of harm to the general public is small.
“When police receive intelligence they will take swift and decisive action to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”