Warning after voice note drama

Port Elizabeth police have cautioned residents about circulating false information on social media following an incident in which the mother of a Sunridge Park pupil sent out a voice note claiming her son had been offered a lift by a stranger. In the voice note, which The Herald has received, the mother claims that a woman in a silver vehicle tried to lure her children into the car as they were walking home from school in a Port Elizabeth suburb, accompanied by a nanny. The mother circulated the voice note via WhatsApp. She claimed to have received a call from her domestic worker about a silver car that had stopped alongside her son. The voice note said that the driver of the vehicle, a blonde woman, stopped next to the pair while they were walking home and insisted that she would give them a lift. The voice note said that the school had been alerted about the incident. Sunridge principal Mauritz de Vries said: “Nothing happened at the school. Police have been here. This supposed incident happened in the Sunridge Park area. The information on this message is totally incorrect.” He referred further questions to the police. Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said an investigation had been launched and that the whole thing had simply been a misunderstanding. Naidu said that police interviewed De Vries, the parent who sent the voice note, as well as a security company which monitors nearby cameras.

“Police have since been inundated with messages from people wanting to know whether such information was true,” she said. Naidu said that they suspected the voice note had been sent in the heat of the moment, only for the mother to later realise that facts had been distorted. “Police would, however, like to commend the public on their vigilance regarding safety,” she said. “But at the same time we must be cautious how information is relayed on social media without verification.” Naidu said the distortion of facts could have dire consequences. A similar incident occurred in May when a parent circulated a voice note about a vehicle spotted outside a school in Newton Park that was allegedly wanting to abduct children. After investigation, police located the driver, who works for Uber and was waiting outside the school to pick up a passenger.