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Police seek hold departure order against Cebuana and British boyfriend

First Posted 09:40:00 04/01/2011

A police task force said 6-year-old Ellah Joy Pique was a victim of child pornography, and recommended that a hold departure order be issued against a Cebuana and her British boyfriend who were named in charges of kidnapping and homicide for the little girl?s death.

Criminal charges were filed against 35-year-old Bella Ruby Santos and her British companion Ian Charles Griffiths before the Cebu Provincial Prosecutors' Office.

Griffiths, an accountant, is in Singapore, and is willing to come back to Cebu to answer the charges, according to Santos in an interview with Cebu Daily News after the charges were filed. (See separate story.)

The Naga City woman repeatedly denied any hand in the disappearance and death of Ellah Joy or any illegal business.

The police, however, said the couple had a dubious enterprise going on at home.

?It appears that Ellah Joy was abducted by (the couple) for the purpose of exploiting the victim for the suspects? cybersex business considering that child pornography is now in demand but went awry leading to her slaying and dumping of her lifeless body,? said the complaint filed by Task Force Ellah Joy Pique headed by Senior Supt. Louie Oppus.

The police asked for a hold departure order against the couple to prevent them from evading prosecution. Only a court can issue that order.

Police said they had a copy of a contract showing that Santos had signed up for an online chat service commonly used by cybersex chat hosts.

Police said the couple were ?positively identified by at least six eyewitnesses as the same persons? on board a dark blue Pajero ?during and after? the taking of Ellah Joy as she walked home with classmates from school in barangay Calajo-an, Minglanilla town, on Feb. 8.

According to police, two other witnesses ?clearly saw the Pajero? parked beside the road near Sayaw Beach in Barili town, south Cebu, on Feb. 9, when the little girl?s body was dumped off a cliff and saw the face of the ?white foreigner? standing at the vehicle?s rear door.

The witnesses identified the couple from a gallery of pictures shown by the police.

The task force, which raided Santos gated residence in Naga City last month, confiscated her blue Pajero parked there and other physical evidence, including an Internet LAN cord ?similar to the cord used to tie the sheet? that wrapped Ellah Joy?s naked body.

Police noted that Singapore Airlines records show that the couple left Cebu on Feb. 9, a few hours after discovery of Ellah Joy?s lifeless body. Santos and Griffiths went to the Mactan airport around 11 a.m. and bought a ?last-minute one-way ticket to Singapore,? which ?was very suspicious.?

Their later arrivals in the Philippines were through airports in Manila and not directly to the Mactan International Airport as they had previously done.

While no witness saw the actual killing of Ellah Joy, police said sufficient ?circumstantial evidence? and witness testimonies were available.

One of those who executed an affidavit was a neighbor of Santos, who used to wash the Pajero.

He said he also knew Griffiths as Santos? ?intimate partner.?

The neighbor said he personally heard from some young women employed by Santos that they were paid a lot of money for ?live chatting? on the Internet and showing their private parts and making obscene gestures with male foreigners using web cameras and computers.

Since 2007, the cybersex business of Santos allegedly ?flourished.?

Young women and gays were often seen coming in an out from the residence at any time of the day.

But this year, said the witness, one of the girls employed by Santos revealed that Santos provided the young women with their own computers and instructed them to engage in cybersex in their own houses to avoid detection from law enforcers.

Police yesterday said other evidence may be submitted after the court resolves a motion to quash the search warrant used to raid Santos? gated residence in barangay Inayagan, Naga City, last month.

Police said they would file additional charges of child pornography and qualified trafficking against the couple as soon as the task force recovers from the court?s custody items earlier seized from Santos? house. This includes assorted compact discs (CD), empty CD covers featuring nude photos of children, sex toys, and a video camera.

A hearing on the motion to quash will be heard today before Regional Trial Court Judge Meinrado Paredes of Branch 13.

Police want the seized items released to the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7).

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