Kidnapper jailed for 22 years for taking siblings

A man has been jailed for 22 years after he tied up and assaulted a Melbourne mother before binding her children's hands, covering their eyes and stuffing them into a car boot.

Jiangang Ji had waited for their father to leave for work before breaking into the house while armed with a knife to take the children, then aged five and three.

They were safely returned to their parents after a nearly 12-hour ordeal on August 23, 2021 but they are still affected by the terrifying experience that sparked a Melbourne-wide search.

Ji was on Wednesday ordered to serve at least 15 years of the sentence.

The children were forced to watch as Ji, now 38, bound and assaulted their mother. She begged him not to hurt her children, and Ji asked her for money.

Through a translation app he demanded she ask her husband for $1 million to ensure her children would be safe, and also sent a ransom request directly to the husband.

Ji bound the children with tape and covered their eyes, carrying them one-by-one to the boot of their mother's car before returning and again assaulting the mother, including threatening her with a knife, leaving a more than 10cm laceration to her abdomen.

A County Court jury found Ji guilty of assaulting her, and he pleaded guilty to other charges including kidnapping, aggravated burglary, false imprisonment and theft.

The mother waited until she believed Ji had left and, while still bound and gagged, was able to run into her Blackburn North street and stop passing drivers who called police.

Ji, who arrived in Australia on a tourist visa in late 2017, had previously worked for the woman's husband as a plasterer in his building business.

Police were able to track Ji and return the children to their parents.

When interviewed by officers Ji admitted taking the children, claiming he had been treated poorly by their father and admitting he committed the offences as "revenge".

Judge Gabrielle Cannon said his crimes were planned and calculated, and committed when the woman and children were particularly vulnerable in their own home.

She said the children were very young and obviously distressed, and yet Ji had still felt the need to bind them and tape their eyes before driving them unrestrained in the boot of his car.

Although Ji told police they were well cared for, she said he left them alone for four hours locked in a room.

The family has since sold their car and moved house to help the children forget the trauma, but the father said he still has to be home before dark or his family do not feel safe.

Judge Cannon said Ji told medical experts that he was drinking heavily at the time and suffered a workplace injury while also affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, forcing him to rely on limited savings to support himself.

She found he was suffering a moderate to severe depressive disorder which contributed to his ability to make appropriate and rational judgments and raised significant concerns about the lack of treatment he received in prison.

A year ago he received a referral for a psychological or psychiatric assessment from a mental health nurse but Justice Health did not respond to inquiries from the judge or Ji's lawyer about why that hadn't been followed up.

"I haven’t got anything at all from them which certainly is a concern of itself," Judge Cannon said.

Ji expects to be deported to China, where he has a wife and two children, after serving his sentence.

He has already spent more than two years in custody.

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