Like a game of Chinese whispers, a generic message embellished with details had Kochi in a panic

Viral post about child kidnapped in mall is fake Lulu mall cries foul Kochi DCP to TNM
news Thursday, June 09, 2016 - 18:00

A WhatsApp forward about a six-year-old child disappearing briefly at a prominent mall in Kochi before being found in the basement with her head shaved and drugged has gone viral.  The forward allegedly originated from Team Swaraksha, a Kochi-based NGO that works against child abuse.

But it turns out that the forward is not entirely true .

Arul Krishna IPS, DCP (Law and Order) of Kochi City confirmed to The News Minute that the WhatsApp forward that has gone viral is a distorted version of the message originally put out by the NGO. The intention of the original message was to spread awareness about child abuse. That message, he says, did not mention the place or time of the incident.

The message doing the rounds said: “This happened in one of the biggest malls in Cochin last week.. The news hasn’t been leaked out coz its going to be a bad name for them. This friend, her husband, and 6 yr old girl child were roaming around in mall play area. She was holding her mom’s hands. As they just turned a corner the girl just took off her hand for one sec and in a min parents realised she was missing. They alerted the mall officials, who in turn alerted the securities. All doors to the malls were closed. Entrance n exits were frozen. In 10 mins the girl Was found in basement of mall, deserted and drugged, shaved head and dressed in trousers n tshirt. All this happened in just 10 mins, just imagine!” 

“This is a case of the message being distorted when it is passed on from one person to the other. The original message did not name the mall or place, they were added subsequently by people, with the intention to generate panic among others,” Arul Krishna says.

According to the DCP, the incident mentioned in the forward was framed based on hearsay. A member of the NGO then circulated the message as a means of spreading awareness among parents, says the DCP. However, as the message went viral, more details began to be added to the message.

“Details like Kochi, Lulu Mall, etc. began to be added to the message. A different version of this message even mentions the names of other malls in and around Kochi,” the DCP says.

He further added that despite an investigation carried out in the last three days, the police were unable to find any such victim or family as mentioned in the message.

On Thursday, Lulu mall authorities filed a petition with the DCP pointing out that a fake message has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp, with the intention of maligning their reputation. A video, with shots of Lulu mall that is being widely shared, has also been submitted along with the petition. The DCP said that the cyber cell would begin an investigation on the issue based on the petition.

TNM found the message was also doing the rounds referring to different cities like Gurgaon. In fact the origin of this message may even have been outside India. Check this story by a website called truthorfiction.com that’s eerily similar.

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