Wits University student saved from Grindr kidnappers in Gauteng. Concerns rise over online dating safety.
Johannesburg, South Africa – September 21, 2023 – In a harrowing incident, a student from Wits University in Gauteng, South Africa, was rescued by the police after being lured and kidnapped through the popular gay dating app Grindr. The victim, an 18-year-old student, was found bound and unconscious at the Denver Men’s Hostel in the eastern part of Johannesburg. Seven suspects have been apprehended in connection with the case, shedding light on the dangers of online dating platforms.
The ordeal began when the student’s roommate reported him missing on Tuesday, prompting an immediate investigation by the Gauteng police. According to Brigadier Brenda Muridili, the Gauteng police spokesperson, the victim had fallen prey to a scheme orchestrated through the Grindr app. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of R30,000 from the student’s family for his safe release.
A multi-agency effort, including members of Gauteng Crime Intelligence, Organised Crime Investigations, Hillbrow detectives, the Johannesburg Trio Detectives, and the Johannesburg Metro Police K9 Unit, along with private security firms Vision Tactical, JT VIP, CAP Security, and Fidelity, swung into action. They tracked down one of the suspects attempting to withdraw the ransom from an ATM. This led them to the Denver Men’s Hostel, where they discovered the victim in distress.
#sapsGP The swift response by a multi-disciplinary team resulted in the rescue of a University of Witwatersrand student who was #kidnapped on 19/09 in Johannesburg. Seven suspects arrested. NPhttps://t.co/7G1XFpqb2p pic.twitter.com/R4rgMH9ZeR— SA Police Service 🇿🇦 (@SAPoliceService) September 21, 2023
During the operation, law enforcement also seized three knives and the student’s personal belongings. The seven arrested individuals now face charges of kidnapping and extortion and are scheduled to appear in court soon. Moreover, investigators are exploring potential connections between these suspects and other cases in Gauteng with similar modus operandi.
The incident has raised concerns among LGBTQIA+ rights activists, with Candice Sifiso Nkosi highlighting the misuse of Grindr by criminal syndicates targeting gay men seeking romantic connections. Nkosi expressed concerns about the safety of the LGBTQIA+ community, emphasizing that such incidents create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
Meanwhile, Vision Tactical, a surveillance and security firm, has called for a ban on Grindr in South Africa due to a significant increase in cases where victims are lured to locations, physically assaulted, robbed, and held hostage. The firm noted that criminals manipulate victims into emptying their bank accounts, often through coercive means. One major concern raised is the lack of age verification during the registration process on Grindr, allowing underage individuals to create profiles and interact with older users without any checks.
Vision Tactical Director Yaseen Theba stated, “These incidents have shed light on a dark reality: Grindr cannot provide a safe space for its users. As a result, Vision Tactical calls for a ban on Grindr in South Africa.”
This disturbing incident underscores the importance of safety and security on online dating platforms and has prompted a broader conversation about the need for stricter regulations and measures to protect users.