An sms and social network frenzy saved a Joburg man who was trapped in his car boot after being hijacked at the weekend.
The man was driving through Honeydew, north-west Joburg, on the way to Florida on the West Rand at about 9pm on Saturday when two armed men hijacked his Golf 3.
They forced him into the boot of the car and sped off.
But they forgot one thing: his cellphone. From inside the boot, he sent an SMS to his girlfriend.
“Be on the look for DSS041GP,” she tweeted shortly after. “my boyufriend has just been hijacked and is in the boot please RT (retweet).”
It was 9.11pm.
Seven people retweeted the plea.
Friend Tanisha Reddy took it viral minutes later, sending the message to notorious cyber police basher and roadblock exposer PigSpotter.
“Please RT @PigSpotter my friend was just hijacked and is in the boot of his car, Honeydew area reg no DSS041GP Golf 3 maroon in colour (sic)”.
He listened, and the cry for help was retweeted again and again by PigSpotter’s more than 109 000 followers – including members of the private security industry.
They immediately began rallying their resources.
“Does that vehicle have a tracking device?” tweeted vehicle-tracking company Afritrack.
“We would like to assist. We have units in surrounding areas.”
“No it doesn’t,” replied Reddy. “How else can we track him?”
Community emergency service and rescue team Riga Rescue stepped in: “I have contacts in the area give me cell number we trace him fast quick boet let’s hurry.”
It was 10.05pm.
The companies mobilised their units, calling on every contact to track the victim’s active cellphone signal.
“We have co-ords,” read the 10.20pm tweet from K9 Law Enforcement, a security services company co-founded by ex-Big Brother star Bradford “Bad Brad” Wood.
The Golf was headed south along the N1, speeding towards Kroonstad in the Free State.
Then, silence in the Twittersphere.
“Any updates?” asked a desperate Reddy.
“We trying to intercept from both ways!” responded Riga Rescue. “Hang on we doing all we can!”
It wasn’t until 11.08pm – more than two hours after the first tweet – that word came through.
“Just received a call, the police have found him his in Ventersberg (Ventersburg, about 250km south of Honeydew),” tweeted Reddy.
The hijackers had driven straight into a roadblock. They abandoned the car, escaping on foot. No arrests were made.
The victim was shaken, but unharmed.
Police spokeswoman Sergeant Tlalanyane Pakela, of the Thabong police cluster in the Free State, said the vehicle had been returned to the owner. Both car and owner are now back in Joburg.
“No arrests have been made yet,” Pakela said. “The docket will first be sent back to the police station in Joburg, nearest to where the hijacking took place.”
The victim and his family declined to be interviewed, but Reddy later tweeted: “There are a lot of brave people out there everyday risking their lives for us in our time of need, tonight I have seen it thank you to all who helped… you guys don’t even understand how much we appreciate what you have done for us! We couldn’t thank you enough.”
Wood agreed that it had been only with the help of “the true unseen heroes, behind the scenes” that the recovery was a success.
“It’s a beautiful network where, when we have a genuine emergency, all the guys just get up and go, working together. Nobody expects anything in return. Last night, thank God, was a success.”
Last night @PigSpotter told the Star: “I think this does go to show effective a networking tool PigSpotter and in general Twitter actually is. “This is not the first incident where someone has been rescued, or a vehicle has been retrieved as a direct result of tweeting me and it being RT’ed, and reaching the correct people at the exact moment.”