Wed, Aug 15, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Kidnapped Aussie farmer returns home


An Australian farmer held captive in West Africa after being tricked in an Internet bride scam has returned home, warning other lovelorn bachelors to be more careful than he was.

Des Gregor said he was lucky to be alive after a 12-day ordeal in Mali in which he was kidnapped, beaten, had his cash and credit cards stolen and was told that his limbs would be hacked off with a machete if his family did not pay a ransom. The 56-year-old wheat farmer from south Australia was freed after a joint operation by the Australian and Malian police.

Gregor traveled to the impoverished West African country last month to meet his supposed bride, "Natacha," who he had been communicating with for several months. He was met at the airport by a well-dressed man, who claimed to be a relative of his future wife, and who took him to a scruffy apartment in the capital city of Bamako.

Once inside, the man and an accomplice beat Gregor, made him strip and demanded he have money wired from Australia. During his captivity he was allowed to call home, seeking cash. His brother, who received the calls pleading for help and money, contacted the police. Gregor was freed after being taken by his kidnappers to the Canadian embassy in Bamako on the pretext of obtaining cash. Once inside, he was met by police officers. His kidnappers got away.

The police do not believe "Natacha," or a reputed A$100,000 (US$84,000) dowry ever existed.

They said Gregor was lucky to get out alive. Gregor, who tried to find a Russian bride online three years ago, said he would not be pursuing love on the Internet again.

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