A man who unwittingly caused widespread panic about kidnappers staking out Port Elizabeth schools has been found.
Parents and schools were on full alert on Wednesday after a message warning about a suspicious Volkswagen Polo spotted outside one school went viral, eventually morphing into claims of an attempted kidnapping outside another school.
On Friday, police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said police had tracked down the “suspicious” vehicle and its owner – an Uber driver waiting outside a school for a pick-up.
“When he saw two women emerge from the school, he assumed that it was his passengers. According to the driver, he enquired from the women if it was them and when they replied that they were not his passengers. He then drove off. He was not parked directly at the school but at the given location of the people who logged the call through the Uber app,” Naidu said.
“His customers decided to walk further down the road while waiting for him hence the confusion. They eventually contacted him and they were picked up. His version was verified by police who inspected the Uber App and everything was in order.”
Naidu commended residents for their vigilance but pleaded with them to verify information before spreading it on social media.
“We were inundated with calls from panicked parents and schools. By this stage, the message had become extremely distorted and there was talk of abductions, all of which was false,” she said.
“More worrying is a registration number that was circulated via various platforms as this could have resulted in someone being killed or injured under the pretence that he was going to commit a crime. Distortion of facts could have dire consequences.”