If there’s one thing we should have all learned by now, it’s that people are weird and can’t be trusted. What else could convince somebody to fake their own kidnapping? In this feature, we’ll share ten stories of oddballs and average Joes who thought that the only way out of a bad situation was to pretend to be abducted.
Aftab Aslam, 2013
There’s a lot of pressure on kids to perform in college. It costs a lot, after all, and parents get a little upset if their investment isn’t seeing a return. So for Aftab Aslam, a young man attending Georgia Gwinnett College, failing English for a second time was a serious crisis. Too terrified to tell his parents the news, Aslam instead bought a cell phone and texted a ransom message to his parents from it. He then set up a tent in an open field and hid out for over a week while his parents panicked. Unfortunately, the cops found out the truth and now he has a few criminal charges to go with his failing grade.
Fairlie Arrow, 1991
Famous people have to deal with the threat of kidnapping at all times. Semi-famous people? Not so much. Fairlie Arrow was an Australian singer paying the bills by singing in a casino lounge in 1991. She obviously aspired for more, so she constructed an elaborate abduction scheme in collaboration with her manager Bob Deering. She vanished on December 15, 1991, and the media immediately seized on Deering’s theory that a crazed fan had grabbed her. In reality, she was holed up in a motel room five miles from her house, enjoying the media’s extensive coverage. To end it, she was found bound and blindfolded by a roadside, but when one of the motel’s cleaners recognized her on TV, the jig was up.
Matthew Robillard, 2013
If you lost two million dollars that wasn’t yours, what would you do? Freak out for sure, but maybe not like Matthew Robillard did. The Alberta, Canada man went missing in January 2013, and police found his car abandoned in an industrial area near the Calgary airport with a smashed window. Robillard reappeared two days later with cuts and burns all over his body that he attributed to a group of abductors, but police quickly determined the story was fake and the man was trying to obscure the fact that he’d lost $2 million of his father-in-law’s money in bad investments.
Jennifer Wilbanks, 2005
Few cases have captured the tabloid mind quite like Jennifer Wilbanks, the Runaway Bride. In April 2005, Wilbanks was preparing to marry her fiancé John Mason when she mysteriously disappeared. A few days later, she called from a pay phone claiming that she’d just been kidnapped by a Caucasian man and a Hispanic woman in their 40s who had snatched her into a blue van, sexually assaulted her and held her for three days. After a tearful reunion with her family, Wilbanks recanted her story to the police, admitting that the pressures of the upcoming wedding were just too much for her. She later broke up with her fiancé and then sued him for good measure.
Pawan Verma, 2010
Kidnapping is widely regarded as a financially-motivated crime, with ransom sums being in the five or six figures. So when Indian man Pawan Verma realized that he didn’t have the cash to fund a lavish trip to Macau, he decided to think outside the box. His father, a successful shopowner in New Delhi, received a terrifying call where he was told his son was being held hostage and wouldn’t be released without a payment of 20 lakh (around $45,000). When Verma’s father paid up, the cops staked out the pickup area and arrested Pawan when he grabbed the cash bag. Needless to say, his dream vacation didn’t happen.
Rahmel Pettway, 2013
Many of the people who fake their own kidnapping are looking to get away from something that they consider far worse. In the case of New York petty criminal Rahmel Pettway, it was the wrath of a woman scorned. Pettway was absent from his home for two weeks without informing his girlfriend of his location, so to cover his tracks he decided to convince her that he’d been snatched. Police found him wedged in between two cars in Harlem with his arms and legs duct-taped. He claimed that a pair of men in a light blue minivan had grabbed him off the street in Brooklyn, held him for a time and then released him, but the cops knew he was lying when they noticed that the roll of tape was still hanging from his wrist.
Joanna Grenside, 1992
People fake their abductions for all sorts of reasons, but Christmas? That’s a new one. British woman Joanna Grenside vanished from the sports center where she worked as an aerobics instructor on December 15th, and after police found her rape alarm next to her abandoned Ford Escort they set up a massive search that involved underwater divers and helicopters. Grenside turned up covered in mud two days later and told police that she’d been abducted and held prisoner. It later turned out that she’d faked the whole thing because she was a serious bulimic and couldn’t handle the high-calorie foods that were served at Christmas parties.
Jules Croiset, 1987
It’s kind of amazing that more actors haven’t faked kidnappings. It plays perfectly into their skills, and can be a serious publicity boost. Jules Croiset was a Dutch Jewish actor who had been active in a campaign to bar an anti-Semitic play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder from being performed in Amsterdam. In December 1987, Creuset disappeared in Brussels, and when he was next seen he told authorities that three Neo-Nazi youth had grabbed him, held him captive and tortured him, ripping his Star of David from his neck and painting a swastika on his back. Several threatening letters had been sent to his family as well, but under questioning Croiset admitted that he made the whole ordeal up and sent the letters himself.
Audrey Seiler, 2004
When love is fading from a relationship, sometimes people will do crazy things to get it back. Audrey Seiler was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin who was dating a fella named Ryan Fisher. When Fisher started to pay less attention to Audrey, the young lady freaked out and hatched a harebrained scheme to get him back. She disappeared from her apartment on March 27, 2004 and was found four days later lying in a marsh. Seiler told police that a man had abducted her at knifepoint, but a videotape from a nearby store showed her purchasing duct tape, rope, a knife and cold medicine – the exact tools used in the attack.
Next: Old Chuck Norris Facts
Maria Brayfield, 2013
When a pair of good Samaritans found Massachusetts woman Maria Brayfield locked in the trunk of her car on the side of the road at 3:30 in the morning, naturally thoughts turned to foul play. But the crime here wasn’t what police expected. Brayfield told investigators that she’d been snatched from her apartment by two men, who stuffed her in the trunk and left her to die by the side of the road. But when the cops examined her story, she broke down and confessed that she had been driving home from a bar and got so panicked that she’d get pulled over for driving under the influence that she locked herself in the trunk and made up the kidnapping story to cover her tracks.