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Hawks warn of fake news after ‘kidnapping’ turns out to be a prank

Cape Town – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has urged the public to refrain from spreading fake news after a kidnapping task team was mobilised to locate an alleged kidnapping victim, in an incident which turned out to be a prank.

Hawks Western Cape spokesperson Zinzi Hani said they were concerned about the continued peddling of bogus messages about human trafficking and kidnapping of women and children, and cautioned the public against the “incessant promotion and distribution of such malicious untruths”.

This follows an incident in which fake news surfaced on social media platforms alleging that a 32-year-old foreign national took a flight from Zimbabwe to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on December 1 to meet his fiancé.

“She indicated that he was here to collect her and then they would travel to back for their wedding ceremony. Information indicated that he landed at Cape Town International Airport on a flight from OR Tambo International Airport,” Hani said.

“The information received indicated that he ordered a taxi to pick him up at the airport. He was allegedly taken by a different vehicle and not the taxi he requested.

“At approximately 8pm the fiancé is said to have received messages from his phone that stated ‘we got him’ and demanded money for his safe return. No ransom amount was mentioned,” said Hani.

A kidnapping task team was activated to find the alleged victim.

Hani said a preliminary investigation confirmed that there was no flight from OR Tambo as alleged by the message.

“It also confirmed that no traveller with the name and surname as per information received had travelled from Zimbabwe to South Africa in the past three months.”

CCTV video footage at Cape Town International Airport did not pick up anyone matching the description given of the alleged victim.

“The complainant received another message hours later indicating that the victim was on his way home and that his phone battery was flat. The complainant contacted his family (who said) he was safe and it was only a prank,” said Hani.

People are encouraged to report crime or suspicious activities to Crime Stop at 08600 10111, or SMS Crime Line at 32211.

Cape Times