LAHAD DATU - A fish farm security guard's tearful pleas to be spared being taken hostage got his freedom from the Filipino gunmen who had taken him on board their getaway boat.
The gunmen, who kidnapped a Chinese national, let the guard go free.
The unidentified Bajau security guard was later picked up along with 18 other workers for questioning.
He had pleaded in the ethnic Bajau language with the five gunmen that he was only a lowly-paid worker and not worth their trouble to be taken as a hostage.
Sources said that after a few minutes of pleading, one of the gunmen slapped him and told him to get off the speedboat before they fled with Yang Zai Lin, 34, the manager of the fish farm.
The security guard had earlier spotted the gunmen rowing their 40HP speedboat into the farm area and had shouted at them to leave while questioning their motive to come into the fish farm.
However, the gunmen including two masked men kept silent and rowed their way towards another jetty to the farm before going up to grab the manager and the security guard.
It is believed their main target was the Hong Kong-based fish farm owner who had been there for four days and had left just hours before the gunmen came in.
They took Yang when they discovered the owner had left.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said police did not rule out the possibility of an inside job.
He said the police were trying to establish whether any of the 19 arrested had given information to the kidnappers prior to the incident.
Of the 19 workers, 11 are Suluks and eight are Indonesians, he said, adding that nine of them were also found to have no proper travel documents.