Dear sir, my name is Natacha and I would like to marry you

An Australian sheep farmer traveled to Mali to pick up his bride and her dowry -- but ended up kidnapped instead.

Published August 14, 2007 7:19PM (EDT)

Here's an odd one for anyone feeling sombered by the AIDS crisis in South Africa and/or Roman Catholic disapproval of Amnesty's support of abortion rights for rape victims. The BBC reports that an Australian sheep farmer was taken hostage in Mali for 12 days when he showed up at an airport to meet his supposed bride -- a woman he'd met over the Internet -- and pick up her $86,000 dowry.

I don't know what their e-mail exchange was like (perhaps the woman had read "The Game"?), but somehow the man, 56, believed that a 20-something Liberian refugee named Natacha would be waiting for him at the airport, presumably lugging a huge suitcase of gold. Except, whoops, the men who greeted his plane and said that they were Natacha's relatives turned out to be kidnapping thugs instead. Talk about a bad online date.

Luckily, things turned out all right -- because while the Australian guy was dumb, his captors were dumber. The Australian authorities somehow convinced the man's kidnappers that he needed to pick up the money at the Canadian Embassy because, you know, one wouldn't want to use regular mail to ship $86,000 in cash. When they dropped him off to get the money, he was rescued. And when relatives were asked how he could have fallen for such a scheme, they suggested that he had been "blinded by Internet love."

Thank goodness no one actually got hurt. Still, I'm impressed that the incident happened, considering that it required two large leaps of faith: first, that a 20-something woman with an $86,000 dowry would be using the Internet to court Australian sheep farmers. And second, that a man who would come to Mali to pick up an $86,000 dowry would have $86,000 of his own to pay in ransom. It's the sort of story that makes you wish there were Darwin Awards for Internet dating -- and kidnapping schemes.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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