Old video shows a man being detained at a South African mall for theft, not kidnapping

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

An old South African video of a man running from mall security with a child in his arms has resurfaced on Facebook with tens of thousands of shares alongside claims that he stole the child. However, the claim is false: police have confirmed the man was not arrested for kidnapping but shoplifting at a mall in Cape Town in 2018.

In the 35-second video clip, a man with a boy in his arms is seen trying to get away from security guards and shoppers. “Leave me! What’s wrong with you?” he shouts.

Using the child as a shield, the man pushes people aside while a confused bystander can be heard asking, “What’s happening?”

“Please all parents in South Africa be aware... This is no joke!” read a post with more than 79,000 views and 265 comments. Two other posts showing the same video – one with 16,000 views and another with over 7,600 – describe the “attempted abduction” at the N1 City Mall in Cape Town as a “brazen attempt of foreign man trying to steal child from fathers arms (sic)”.

Screenshot of the video, taken January 6, 2022

The posts further urge “all parents to be alert and not leave any children unattended”.

But AFP Fact Check found that the video shows a shoplifter, not an attempted kidnapping.

- Incident dates back to 2018 -

A Google search revealed two news articles telling a different story: The video was taken at N1 City Mall on August 18, 2018, and shows a South African man using his child as a buffer against security and other shoppers who tried to stop him after he robbed a store.

The first article by South African news platform IOL was published when the video went viral a few days after the incident. It debunked the rumours of a kidnapping attempt with a statement from police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk: "Regarding the person in the video clip, he was arrested for theft and not kidnapping.”

The second article on Cape Talk radio station’s website reported the arrest of a 25-year-old suspect named as Jean Pierre Meyer over the incident. 

- 'Big huge false' -

With the video's recent reappearance, AFP reached out to N1 City Mall management, who referred to the 2018 IOL article with no further comment, “as this incident has been handled directly by SAPS with ample clarity and information”.

AFP Fact Check found Carina Maddix’s profile on Facebook. When contacted for comment, Maddix was surprised to learn that the post from 2018 was still circulating. “Please take it as a big huge FALSE,” she said. “I am an admin for some WhatsApp groups in the area [and] someone WAY BACK added my name to that post. I fought to prove that it's not correct,” she told AFP Fact Check.

Western Cape Police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut also confirmed the story was false.

The man in the video “was not apprehended for kidnapping at the time of the incident, but for shoplifting at a retail chain store situated in a mall in Goodwood,” he said. 

“The man was filmed while he had a child with him, which in all probability raised the suspicion that the child was kidnapped,” he told AFP Fact Check.