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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Australian taken hostage in Mali
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Des Gregor
Des Gregor said his kidnappers threatened him with a machete

A south Australian farmer has warned of the perils of falling in love over the internet, after an online bride scam almost cost him his life.

Des Gregor, 56, has arrived back in Adelaide after being held hostage in the African nation of Mali for 12 days.

He had gone there expecting to marry a woman he had met over the internet, and pick up a US$86,000 (43,000) dowry.

But instead he was held hostage, with his kidnappers demanding US$86,000 from him in ransom.

'Blinded by love'

Mr Gregor, a sheep farmer, set off to Mali on what he hoped would be an exotic adventure, during which he would not only meet his African bride but pocket a huge dowry in gold.

The target of his affections was a woman purportedly called Natacha, a Liberian refugee in her twenties whom he had met and fallen in love with over the internet.

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Mr Gregor was picked up at the airport by men claiming to be Natacha's relatives but who turned out to be gangsters.

After taking him to a flat in the capital, Bamako, they stripped him naked, held a gun to his head and threatened to chop off his limbs with machetes.

They also demanded $86,000 as a ransom, or else he would be killed.

His relatives sounded the alarm when they started receiving strange e-mails asking for money.

At that point the Australian authorities decided to lay a trap of their own.

They managed to persuade the kidnappers that Mr Gregor could pick up the ransom money at the Canadian embassy.

It was there that he was rescued by the Australian federal police after being held for 12 days.

West African internet scams are not uncommon and many of his fellow Australians have wondered why the farmer was so easily duped.

His relatives say he was blinded by internet love.




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