ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Doug Whittaker has visited Thailand for both fun and on mission trips over the last 11 years, but he recently went above and beyond to help a friend he made there and saved a life halfway around the world in the process.
“I knew this was going to destroy her - if not kill her - if I didn’t get her out of there,” he said.
Late last month, Whittaker got a message on Facebook from a woman named Veena who had been his impromptu tour guide during his first visit to Thailand.
She told him she had gone to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf for a temporary hotel job, but when she got there, sex traffickers took her passport and luggage and locked her in building with other Thai women and were renting them out for sex.
“I know her very well, and to think of what is happening to her is devastating to her and devastating to me,” he said.
As a police officer for 20 years with St. Paul Police Department, Whittaker recognized the hopelessness victims of sex trafficking often experience. He encouraged Veena to find out how much it would take to buy her freedom. He then wired her the $2,400 ransom to set her free.
“The issue is what if I don’t send the money,” he said. “Then I would never know and I would never be able to forgive myself because this was an 11-year friend we’re talking about.”
After she returned to Thailand, Veena sent Whittaker a message saying if he hadn’t helped her, she believes she would be dead. Whittaker said he was just being a good friend.
“I’m just so relieved,” he said. “Life is good right now. It was really bad for a week or so. It was horrible. This couldn’t have a better ending.”