Photo of US sisters used to falsely claim they went missing in South Africa

In June 2024, two young sisters went missing in the United States, leading to a manhunt spanning two states. A few weeks later, a picture of the girls was posted online alongside claims the pair were missing in the South African city of Cape Town. But the claim is false; the post is part of a convoluted online scam. In reality, the two children in the image were kidnapped in the US state of Louisiana. One died, along with their mother. The older sibling survived the ordeal.

The Facebook post, framed as a public service announcement on a community “crime busters” page, reads: “These two young girls are missing in Capetown after their mother was found dead Thursday morning (sic).”

In the image are two children wearing matching pink tops, smiling at the camera.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on June 26, 2024

Published on June 22, 2024, the post was shared more than 9,900 times before it was deleted.

The same claim also spread in other Facebook posts including here.

A similar claim here about the girls going missing in South Bend, Indiana, has been shared more than 4,000 times, although the comments section has been turned off — an indication the post could be a scam.

The claims, citing both Cape Town and Indiana, are indeed false. 

Louisiana tragedy

A reverse image search revealed the pair went missing on June 13, 2024, after their mother was found murdered in her home in Loranger, Louisiana.

Authorities said the search for the girls ended the next day in Mississippi when the three-year-old was found dead inside a car. Her six-year-old sister was found alive (archived here).

Screenshot of the Fox article, taken on July 2, 2024

The same image was used by Fox News in a broadcast and by police in the initial “Amber Alert” issued for the girls.

The alert issued for the missing girls by the Louisiana State Police on June 13, 2024

A multi-agency investigation led to the arrest on June 14, 2024, of a 36-year-old man in Jackson, Mississippi (archived here).

On June 20, 2024, Daniel Callihan and his alleged accomplice Victoria Cox were indicted on murder and kidnapping charges (archived here).

Disinformation tactic

The Facebook posts resemble many others distributed in community groups all over the US that AFP Fact Check debunked in 2022.

Typically the posters sow seeds of alarm with fictitious warnings about criminals targeting individual communities (see examples here and here). Once a post has sufficient engagement, it is usually edited to replace it with a bogus offer designed to solicit personal information.

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