A gang of kidnappers have abducted a teenage boy from a playground in South Africa. 13-year old Katlego Marite was snatched from a play area near his home. The gang are demanding a ransom of around $130,000 to be paid in the form of 15 Bitcoin.
Timeline: Johannesburg, May 22
While crypto currency has been no stranger to crime since its inception, it has normally been of the white-collar variety, i.e. someone using the currency on the “dark web” to buy illicit contraband, or cyber thieves stealing large sums of a crypto via hacking into an account.
But what has happened in the past 48 hours in South Africa is both unprecedented and deeply disturbing. In the suburbs of Johannesburg a matter of hours ago, a gang operating in the town of Witbank in the eastern province of Mpumalanga abducted a 13-year-old boy by snatching him from a playground and forcing him into a white Toyota Corolla before driving off at speed, with the child partially dragged before being pulled completely into the car. The boy had previously been playing with his friends, and the incident happened at a playground not far from his home.
A spokesman for the Johannesburg Police Department, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi (pictured above) had this to say:
“We are investigating a case of kidnapping that happened on Sunday in Witbank. There was a demand that was made that the parents should deposit cash in bitcoins.”
Local media claimed that the police were working off a ransom note that was found at the scene of the kidnapping. The note reportedly said:
“This is a kidnapping … We demand ransom of 15 bitcoins to be paid into the below bitcoin wallet address to secure your child’s safe release – non-negotiable,”
The first deadline for the payment of part of the ransom was for Monday night. The note reportedly states that the kidnappers have threatened to kill the boy if their demands were not met. Needless to say, the child’s parents are reportedly deeply traumatized by the situation. As Hlarthi said:
“They (the child’s parents) don’t even know what this bitcoin is. They’re devastated and you can see they’re worried and asking themselves: ‘Where’s our son?”
South African police report that there has been a recent rise in kidnapping in the country, although it is normally wealthy business people who are targeted. In this case, it seems to be an ordinary working-class black South African family who have had their son taken.
Update: Police Name Child, Ransom Note Revealed
Whilst writing this article, more news emerged about the case: The police have now officially confirmed that the child’s name is Katlego Marite. Katlego was playing with two friends outside in eMalahleni, previously known as Witbank. A white Toyota Corolla pulled up, and one of the occupants grabbed Katlego leaving behind a piece of paper before speeding off. The piece of paper was the ransom note demanding a payment of fifteen Bitcoin for the release of the boy.
Brigadier Leonard Hlathi gave this update:
“While playing, a gold (White? Gold?) Toyota Corolla with three occupants stopped next to them. One of the men, who was dressed in black, with a green jacket, grabbed the victim to the vehicle (sic) before driving off with him. Katlego’s friends ran to his mom and told her about the ordeal. She, in turn, reported the incident to the police.”
Bonny Suarez, a friend of the Marite family placed the following appeal on her Twitter page. It shows a recent photograph of Katlego dressed in this school uniform, plus what appears to be the ransom note, which makes for particularly grim reading. Whether the police gave Bonny permission to display the ransom note on Twitter is unclear.
Plz help find Katlego Marite aged 13.He was kidnapped Sunday, around 15h00 in Tasbet Park Ex1,Witbank, Mpumalanga, by a silver/Grey Toyota Corolla around my friends house well known to most as “Nkandla”.
Kindly call 0607388298
Please RT #countryDuty pic.twitter.com/mukQo0Mjw7
— B Suarez (@Bonny_suarez) May 22, 2018
It goes without saying that everybody in the crypto community is hoping and praying that this situation is resolved as quickly, painlessly and peacefully as possible, and little Katlego is returned to his family safe and sound.