Tuesday, August 14, 2007

African Internet Bride Scam Victim Returns Home

A South Australian farmer held hostage in Africa for 12 days in an internet bride scam has returned home, saying he's lucky to be alive.
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Des Gregor, a 56-year-old from Hoyleton in SA's mid-north, arrived at Adelaide Airport tonight after being freed from his African captors who were ultimately duped by police.

Mr Gregor travelled to the landlocked west African nation of Mali last month to meet his supposed bride and collect a dowry of $100,000. (NZ $114,521) in gold.

But on his July 27 arrival, he was kidnapped by an organised scam gang, beaten, stripped, had his cash and credit cards taken, and was held hostage at an apartment in Bamako, the capital of the third world country.

The wheat and sheep farmer was told he would have his limbs hacked off with a machete unless he arranged a $100,000. ransom.

Mr Gregor was freed last Thursday when Australian Federal Police (AFP) persuaded the kidnappers there was money to be collected by their captive from the Canadian embassy in Bamako.

The conmen briefly released Mr Gregor, and police rescued him.

"I especially thank the Australian Federal Police for the effort that they put in and also the Mali police, they did a fantastic job in conjunction with the AFP, and if it wasn't for them, I reckon another couple of days and I wouldn't have returned," Mr Gregor said.

Asked if he had learnt his lesson, Mr Gregor replied: "I think so."

Mr Gregor arrived in Adelaide with none of his possessions and issued a warning to others seeking love over the internet.

"Just be careful, make sure you check everything out 100 per cent," he said.

Earlier, his brother Phil Gregor said Des was "absolutely blinded by the fact it was a scam".

"You see this in a movie, you read about it in a book – it happens to someone else, not you. But it does, I found that out," Phil Gregor said.

"I really hope that the message gets out to people that they look after their family and if anyone talks about internet relationships, that they can be open and share the mail with them to get an objective opinion.

"When you're in that relationship, it does seem that the reality of the scam doesn't show up to the person that is in it.

"I want people to be prevented from having to go through what we did.

"It's not a nice thing and it can be avoided with some family participation."


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