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In my world there's a company that needs to kidnap a person or a number of persons (reasons are out of scope of this question) and must do this in the way that no one (and I mean: no one) would object, have or ask questions, seek for a missing person etc.

Thus, I'm saying about breaking all that person's family, friends, neighbor and social connections, i.e. "removing" it from the world without creating disturbance and without causing question.

The seized person may really be kidnapped, i.e. not willing to take a part in this process or it can fully cooperate with the company in this process. In both cases the kidnapped person will not seek any chance or way to "get out" (i.e. will be cooperating willingly or unwillingly or will be deluded itself and kept unconscious or not aware of the kidnapping event). So we only need to take care about other persons, not about person in topic.

As chairman of this company, personally involved in "kidnapping", what options do I have?

Things that I considered so far:

  1. Changing facts, social wires, news, faking situations to pronounce person dead. Creating a fake grave for it and let the family and friends believe that it is dead (aka. "La Femme Nikita").

  2. Faking a situation in which person in subject is sent to highest-level jail for ten or twenty years sentence without an ability for a parole and without even a possibility to see anyone.

  3. Faking a letter as written by subject to let family and friends think that this person is "gone" for a longer period of time (years?), i.e. decided to join a contemplative order, some community, sect etc., decided to go for a long-time, world-span trip and deluding family and friends during this period by sending a fake mails, photos and even making fake phone calls (technology allows it in this world).

  4. Not doing anything in preparation stage. Simply kidnapping this person and reacting on all events or situations as they arise (quite very risky?).

Are any of above options plausible? Are there any other options to consider?

Edit: Once people are kidnapped and kept hidden within company's premises (no matter whether willingly or unwillingly) they are kept completely and totally separated from the world. They don't have access to the Internet, telephone nor to any kind of media. So we discuss / cover only their past web-presence. They are not able to create any new Internet/media/world presence.

Edit: As JBH correctly points out there will always be some kind of disturbance created with disappearing of any person (broken social connections). That's fine. I'm only talking about not creating disturbance that can't be handled, i.e. that leads into asking "wrong" questions.

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    $\begingroup$ I know you say the reasons are out of scope, but could you clarify at least the circumstances, personalities, etc. of the people being targeted? If the company is targeting someone extremely popular and famous, then the result you describe would be all but impossible under any circumstances. If however the target is a disliked 'nobody' -- or better, a reviled criminal -- then it becomes progressively easier to pull it off. $\endgroup$ – JDM-GBG Jul 4 '18 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ Once vanished, you should also think about how they stay undetected. See my related post on Security.SE: security.stackexchange.com/q/47293/485 $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jul 4 '18 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ do the people being kidnapped need to be gone indefinitely, or only for a certain period of time before they can be released again? exactly why are they being kidnapped? the answers to this question can vary significantly depending on the timeframe and likelihood of release. $\endgroup$ – Qvalador Jul 4 '18 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ What the time period? $\endgroup$ – Sasha Jul 5 '18 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ "without creating disturbance and without causing question" By this I believe you mean, "such that no one suspects foul play," right? Removing even the most insignificant person has some effects (disturbance) and almost always results in questions (They weren't that kind of person, were they?). Please remember to edit your question with this and all other clarifications. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 5 '18 at 3:48

10 Answers 10

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Keep it simple

Unless there is some handwavium, Men in Black memory erasure device, someone will remember each person, even if it is only the tax office. There will be questions asked, no matter which method you use. The best you can hope for is to minimise the investigation and thus the chance that anyone will solve the kidnapping. Any attempt to fake evidence is providing clues that may backfire - as soon as there is a body that can be proved not to be the missing person it confirms there is something fishy going on, fake emails that can be proven fake ditto etc. So just make the original snatch as simple as possible with no body to recover. That means going to the water covering most of the planet.

The best case option is that the seized person is willing to cooperate, has moderate wealth (enough to travel to the coast), can swim and can get to a fairly deserted stretch of coastline. They go on holiday, swim out and never come back (actually picked up by boat or submarine). Second-best option is to manipulate them into the above scenario and kidnap them while they are swimming. Even the then Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt went missing and was never found under similar circumstances despite a major investigation. While bodies may be found in such situations, no one is really surprised if they are not. If the person is high-profile then there may be conspiracy theories (as there were with Harold Holt) but with no proof they cannot be acted upon.

If the subjects are inconsiderate enough to be non-swimmers then you need more creative means of them apparently being consigned to the watery depths. Induce them to travel to a poorly-regulated country and get them to go missing in a maritime accident. Scenario works best with a honey trap - get them travelling with an attractive person of their preferred gender who is in on the kidnapping. One option is that the couple hire a boat from some dodgy operator in slightly dubious weather conditions and never return - the boat can be found capsized, the taser used to subdue the subject will not leave forensic traces on the boat and all of the snatch team except the travelling companion wear crime-scene suits, masks etc to ensure no DNA is left.

A similar option is to arrange for travel in hurricane/cyclone season then:

  • the travelling companion sabotages the subject's phone, tablet etc so they are out of touch with friends and family;
  • travelling companion leads them to a deserted area where they can be kidnapped quietly;
  • wait for a disaster such as the sinking of a ferry; and
  • plant identifiable personal effects where the search and rescue or accident investigation officers will find them.

Steps c) and d) require some luck and quick reactions, but there are some parts of the world where the mean time between such disasters is distressingly low. Note that the companion needs to be either disposed of or relocated with a new face and identity in this scenario - they are too risky a loose end otherwise.

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  • $\begingroup$ People can drawn "on demand" by commiting suicide. If enough clue lead to this, police seldom investigate much. Familly will claim that their child was not suicidal, but each familly have the same claim for each suicide (oh... wait...) $\endgroup$ – Madlozoz Jul 5 '18 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ I completely disagree with your first paragraph. Truly, "someone will remember each person", but that doesn't mean that anyone will ask a question about any missing person. Your example: a clerk in the tax office. When I learn that a person that picked up my last year tax documents went missing, I feel sorry for its family, but neither take any care whether it actually has any family, nor ask any questions or build any suspicion that this missing could be fake. Many people goes missing everyday and all most people care about is to think for a five or ten seconds how sad it is. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ But the fact that I disagree with your first paragraph doesn't change the fact that your overall answer is very good and brings a lot of valuable ideas on getting a person or persons missing without too many questions. So far I haven't thought about using sea or lake plus drowning suggestion combination in the process of kidnapping persons, so your idea is certainly worth developing. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder agree that there are some people that, unfortunately, no one cares about, in which case the kidnap agency can be as blatant as they like. However, it is not always certain in advance which people fall into this category. Thanks for the comments and good luck with the project. $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Jul 9 '18 at 10:31
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Faking death is the best viable option. You just need to corrupt a coroner, tamper with some medical data, and the body must be otherwise unrecognizable.

This will also work if you set up a fake "serial killer", so that, at regular intervals, other people can conveniently disappear and, as far as the law is concerned, stay dead.

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    $\begingroup$ The fictional serial killer is a nice touch. An unrecognizable body however would create doubt rather than eliminate it. Instead, the body would need to be a perfectly recognizable fake -- a la Will's "body" in Season 1 of Stranger Things. $\endgroup$ – JDM-GBG Jul 4 '18 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need a perfectly fake body. Ironically, the technology that lets you identify unrecognizable bodies makes it easier to fake, assuming you've subverted someone in authority. Have the person being taken supposedly be involved in some kind of terrible accident--serious fires, explosions, or plane crashes work well--so that DNA is used to identify fragments of the remains. Use fragments of some random corpse tested, then just have some DNA from the real person slipped into the testing. Odds are no one will question it. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Jul 4 '18 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ Faking death is the only option. Even homeless people can be noticed missing and questions asked. People won't look if they think they know where the missing people are. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Jul 5 '18 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ I think you could do it without faking a body. They are a passenger on a small, high speed boat that is crossing either the ocean or deep, flowing water. The boat hits something, flips and then the gas tank explodes--witnesses see this happen. What the witnesses don't see is that the people on board were replaced with mannequins, the boat was being run by remote control. In the aftermath the investigators find the gas tank pierced by debris, some cargo (say, luggage) burned and on the ocean floor but the bodies aren't found. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Jul 5 '18 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ While faking death could be viable a fictional serial killer is not a good idea and absolutely far from the OP specs (must do this in the way that no one (and I mean: no one) would object, have or ask questions, seek for a missing person etc.). Even though serial killers statistically aren't the biggest life threath, their mediatic resonance and therefore the investigation effort is maximum. You are creating unnecessary interest for the victims and the killer and you are adding unnecessary complications like replacement corpses and background evidences to simulate a serial killer. $\endgroup$ – theGarz Jul 5 '18 at 12:20
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I assume that the person won't cooperate, otherwise the situation it's only easier.

Depending on the company's power (financial and political) and mostly on it's evilness, you could make a lot of people disappear without prolonged claims and/or investigations by faking some small or big incidents.

Your greatest advantage (which is also mandatory for the perfect murder) is that there's no connection between the company and the kidnapped, because there's no motive to choose a specific person (as far as I understand the question). If the faked incident is somehow suspicious, the first and most relevant question for a crime is "cui prodest?". Since there are literally no connection between the company and the kidnapped, the authority will search through the kidnapped's history and related people without finding anything about the evil company.


Single person example

Recently a person fell in yellowstone acid lake and went dissolved within hours, you only have to kidnap one person and throw another corpse in the lake.

OR

There are several feud for trivial reasons, especially in low education places, that often end with feral fight, gun shot, knife stab and so on. This usually happen between relatives or neighbors, and the escalation takes long time and it involves menaces, offenses and minor aggressions.

If you only monitor the situation and then kidnap someone involved in the feud, i'm quite sure that the investigations won't affect the company, since there's a really strong connection and precedent aggressions and literally now connection with your company.

Multiple people example

Simulate a shipwreck or plane crash: you could kidnap the people of small vessels and small charter planes at the departure (or during navigation, but it's difficult with a plane), use the vehicle as supposed, launch a mayday and sink/crash che vehicle in the ocean. Lot of people got lost because of accidents, and untill the vehicle condition and the circumstances don't show anything suspicious some researche will be done, but the goal would be to find people, not investigate a crime.

Important note

If your evil company has plenty of power and resources it could even organize a mass kidnap, covered by some huge terrorist strike. Apparently, even years after the 9/11 attack, families of 1,113 of the 2,753 who died still have no biological confirmation of death, according to New York’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

This could seem a good way to concentrate 10 years of kidnaps in one go but the required power to operate at this level is huge, therefore the circle tightens. Moreover, more important, if you want to keep a secret you have really limit the people involved as per the "Grime's law".

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. To clarify. Let's not mix two separate things. Yes, you're correct that there are literally no connections between the company and the kidnapped persons. But, no, there's a motive to choose a specific person (company makes a great deal of review / selection prior to kidnapping a selected person). But, this is just a clarification from my side that has no influence into your great answer. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ Your last paragraphs' note about 9/11 attack is striking for me. I wasn't ware of this fact. Such operation really requires a lot of planning, connections, money and probably a few murders, but perfectly answers my other question (I didn't ask so far) of how many people I can kidnap without rising too many suspicions. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 9:02
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder: you do have a quite relaxed concept of "few" murders because at least 1640 out of 2753 people certainly died because of the hypothetical kidnap. 0_o $\endgroup$ – theGarz Jul 9 '18 at 9:31
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Have all the targets "win" an amazing holiday somewhere.

By "coincidence" all the targets end up on the same plane.

Then have the plane "disappear" over the ocean, possibly after a suitably cryptic final message and/or suitable spoofed telemetry.

Debris from the plane should wash ashore after a few weeks.

One cover story could explain the whole thing. For example a wealthy and eccentric billionaire announces a "happiness plan", He's going to fly 1000 people selected at random to a luxury holiday. Everyone in the country is entered in the lottery, he even hires people to go out and sign up homeless people and poor people who normally miss these chances.

900 of these people are genuinely selected at random, the other 100 are rigged. Those 100 then get put on the same plane.

That plane "disappears" in a tragic accident, the other 900 though get their holiday as planned (although somewhat dampened by the tragic accident).

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  • $\begingroup$ Great idea in general, but will not work in these particular conditions. As I wrote in my question, only 5-10% of abducted people will be cooperating and will be aware of what is happening. The remaining part will not cooperate and must not be aware of what is going on. The remaining part includes all sort of people. Homeless, criminals etc. I don't quite follow the idea of allowing to "win an amazing holiday experience" to this sort of people. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't it work? You set up a plausible situation for each person whereby they end with this holiday experience (criminals go on holidays too, homeless people would if they got the chance), etc. For some people you could just offer them a job that involves making the flight. No cooperation is needed, you just need to trick them all onto the plane and can tune the ruse to each candidate. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 10 '18 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, after your clarifications. However, still... the most important key factor here is to generate as little attention from media, other people as possible. So... sending a homeless or criminal to a vacation or job interview or putting this kind of person on a plane (for any reason) that will later "crash" still doesn't convince me, as it will generate probably a lot of media attention. Imagine plane crash where any kind of newspaper or media discovered that half or more of the passengers were homeless or criminals etc. magically winning a luxurious vacations by some no name agency. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 10 '18 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ @trejder See edit. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 10 '18 at 11:49
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Murder is the best solution here.

A fake death means that no one will be looking for this person, as mentioned in other answers.

The best way to do this depends on the nation, but in the United States the best option would be to arrange a car accident. You'll need a corpse that matches the build of the person you're kidnapping (get into their doctor's record) just in case any questions come up in the future, they'll look at bones and those need to match. Looking at bones to determine aspects of the body is something done by an expert on-site, so if they don't match there's nothing you can do at that point to maintain the illusion.

DNA is less obvious, and is done in labs, so if even if someone tries to do it later you still have a chance to intercept it.

You'll need to... get the coroner on your side. They're going to be looking at a long-dead corpse. Even burned, they should know what they're looking at. Make sure that they actually don't.

Then your kidnapping victim is going to take a long drive into a nearby tree. They took a drive down a country road and plowed into a tree. Shame that the airbag wasn't properly connected, they smashed their head into the wheel and dash, and now their head is in pretty bad shape. (Do this so that no one can come in and recognize the corpse - if the face doesn't resemble a face, well, why bother asking someone to recognize it.) Oh, and then the fuel lines caught on fire, and because no one was around their body got burned to a crisp. (Again, make it really hard to recognize the body. They have a tattoo that your decoy corpse doesn't? Oh, well it's just burned away.)

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Sometimes the best way to kidnap someone is just to kidnap them.

"Witnesses saw the subject kidnapped at gunpoint by four masked men who jumped out of a white van. it's definitely the work of the Vladimir-Estragon mob, they always use the same MO. You'll get a ransom note in a couple of days."

But something goes wrong, the gang apparently gets suspicious and after initial contact the family never hear from them again and the police have no leads. So everyone 'knows' what happened to the victim, but nobody knows....

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  • If it gets public, some people will protest. Even vile criminals deserve the protections of the rule of law, because you can't just take the word of the king or sheriff that they are vile criminals. There must be a public trial.
  • That being said, the notions of rule of law and trial differ across the world. Fake travel to North Korea and raise a stink that he didn't come out. Fake travel to Syria and regret his hit by a drone missile.
  • Many people disappear each year. Consider the recent case of Captain Hughes, who seems to have deserted from the Air Force for 35 years. In his case there were some clues of a deliberate, self-imposed disappearance, like the money, but no firm evidence to prove one way or the other.
  • With enough money, start a Mars one-way colonization project with a varied group of volunteers (a "cross-section of a real human society" or some such). One of the ships goes silent soon after launch, and recovery is impractical ...
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  • $\begingroup$ Ideas worth exploring, but... Fake travel to Syria + drone hit requires family to get the body and rises public attention. Fake travel to North Korea or to Mars rises even more public and newspapers attention. I was more than sure, even though I didn't say this directly in my question, that silence around this plot and making as little attention as possible is an essential key here. $\endgroup$ – trejder Jul 9 '18 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ @trejder, for the 2nd and 4th bullet point I was assuming that a plausible lie is better for the story than an open mystery. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jul 10 '18 at 5:00
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If the problem is people asking for the kidnapped person, you have two options:

  • find a person where no-one will ask
  • replace the kidnapped person

It can be hard to find someone where really nobody cares about, but replacing a person is not easy eather. Maybe it is easier if it is only for short time, when the replacement tells everybody about moving to [far away]..

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Research

As long as the kidnappings don't have to happen in an unreasonably short time frame, you can discover what each target truly enjoys (surfing, chess, a Bahamas vacation, hiking, etc.). Then lure them in by presenting an opportunity that is good but not too good to be true. Once you have them willingly going off some place, you can control their disappearance or fake death.

The main drawback is that this requires a lot of manpower. If this has to be done in a short time, then you need one team for each disappearance. If this can happen over an extended period, you can have one team move from victim to victim.

However, there are many advantages to this:

  1. There is little to connect the disappearances/deaths to each other (a hiker disappears in the Amazon and someone attending a chess championship gets mugged, etc.). This is especially true if the disappearance can happen over time.
  2. The victims have taken care of handling the leaving of anyone they know already.
  3. If the victim's desire is illicit, it's even better. The victim will cover up their own tracks and clues will point back to the victim. Also, there will already be a list of potential suspects for the disappearances.
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Put them in prison on sex offences and tell everyone that he commited suicide while the cameras were malfunctioning due to the shame. Meanwhile drug them unconscious and leak a photo of them "dead" to the a chatroom like 4-chan pretending to be a nurse at the hospital. Spread stories to the press about the incompetence of the prison guards in letting someone die on suicide watch.

Meanwhile also flood the media with outlandish conspiracy theories in order to make anyone who questions the official version of events seem crazy.

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