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British Airways pilot kidnapped outside supermarket during South Africa stopover

Pilot ‘endured hours of torture and physical assaults’, source claims

Andy Gregory
Thursday 11 January 2024 21:33 GMT
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Related: BA plane passengers evacuated at Heathrow after four fell ill from unknown 'fumes'

A British Airways pilot has been kidnapped and reportedly tortured during a short stopover in South Africa.

The first officer is believed to have gone shopping on his own in Johannesburg when he was approached by a woman in a supermarket car park who asked him to help carry her bags to her car.

But he was then bundled into a vehicle by a group of men, who drove him to a remote location and allegedly subjected him to hours of torture and physical assaults in order to force him to hand over money.

“It’s staggering what happened to the pilot. It was like something out of the movies,” a source told The Sun.

“He fell for the scam of agreeing to help a woman in need, and before he knew it was bundled in a vehicle and driven away.

“He then endured hours of torture and physical assaults. It only ended when he was left penniless. He is just happy to be alive. The incident has shaken [the] crew.”

The pilot was reportedly deemed unable to fly back to London after the ordeal, and the airline reportedly had to find a replacement pilot.

The airline confirmed that a staff member was abducted outside of the gated Melrose Arch precinct, and said it was supporting local authorities with their investigation.

The pilot was unable to fly back to London, and a replacement was called in

“A crew member was abducted outside Checkers Bluebird [sic] supermarket just north of the Melrose Arch complex,” BA said in a statement.

The airline told The Independent: “We are supporting our colleague and the local authorities with their investigation.”

Kidnappings have been on the rise in South Africa in recent years, with South African Police Service statistics suggesting they have more than tripled in the space of a decade, rising from 4,306 cases in 2014 to nearly 15,342 in 2023.

More than half of all kidnappings recorded by police in 2023 were in the Gauteng province, of which Johannesburg is the capital city.

Kidnapping for ransom or extortion in South Africa has soared since 2016 due to foreign syndicates shifting their operations to the country, and local copycat groups mimicking their modus operandi but targeting South African nationals, according to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime’s 2022 risk assessment for South Africa.

However, the majority of victims are likely to be low-income citizens who do not report the crime, according to the UN-backed organisation, meaning the police figures could be a significant undercount.

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