Lured by love, Aussie falls into online trap


CANBERRA — An Australian farmer who was kidnapped and beaten in Mali after walking into an Internet bride scam has pleaded with people to be careful looking for online love.

South Australian farmer Des Gregor, 56, returned to Australia on Sunday night after being held hostage by machete-armed bandits in Africa for 12 days.

“I was tied, bound by the legs, and that was only probably for a couple of days because they knew that I was going to cooperate. There was always one bloke sleeping at the door, there was no way out,” Gregor told Australian media.

Love-struck Gregor arrived in Mali last month to meet his supposed fiancee, Natacha, whom he had “met” on the Internet, and collect a dowry of gold bars worth $100,000.

Instead, the wheat and sheep farmer was picked up at the airport in a car and driven to a single bedroom apartment in the capital, Bamako, which was full of armed men.

Gregor was told his limbs would be hacked off unless his family in Australia paid a $100,000 ransom.

The scam was only stopped and Gregor freed when Australian and Mali police in turn duped the kidnappers into letting Gregor enter the Canadian embassy in Bamako to collect the ransom.

Mali is one of the world's poorest countries, with a prolonged drought hitting the mainly farming and fishing-based economy. Most foreign tourists travel to the country to see the World Heritage-listed trading outpost of Timbuktu.

Gregor said he had no inkling before his arrival that he was a victim of a confidence trick and had now learnt his lesson.

“I reckon another couple of days and I wouldn't have returned,” he said, recounting “a good belting” he received with a machete during his ordeal.

Gregor warned others looking for love over the Internet to be careful.

“Make sure you check everything out 100 per cent,” he said.

Brother Phil said Des had been “absolutely blinded” by love and did not see the scam coming.

“You see this in a movie, you read about it in a book. It happens to someone else, not you. But it does,” he 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.”


Our comments in the Globe and Mail

August 14, 2007

Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote:

The danger of being ripped off starts at home, not in Africa. Our dysfunctional family court system encourages billions of dollars of fraud that could otherwise be spent of the education of children. The primary cause is parliament's failure to legislate a legal presumption of equal parenting after divorce. Currently around 75% of all marriages are terminated by women because they can obtain a "financial advantage" by getting rid of the man. That's one reason why there are so many men looking on line for spouse. If they were a sucker once, they often look all frequently like they are wearing a sign on them with the word "sucker" in bold print, a sign that's visible even in a few sentences of an on line profile. These same men are generally targeted by a second woman hell bent on doing the same thing. The only problem is it destroys men's desire and financial ability to have children and that's causing a negative population growth that threatens Canada's future. 613-797-3237