WhatsApp rumor leads to two murders

A mob dragged two men out of police station, savagely beat them and then set them on fire after a false rumor was spread on WhatsApp about them being child kidnappers.

The mother of one of the pair made a desperate plea for the crowd to stop as she watched the lynching unfold on a Facebook livestream, it was reported.

The horrific episode began when Ricardo Flores, 21, and his 43-year-old uncle Alberto Flores were taken into custody in the small town of Acatlan, in central Mexico, “for disturbing the peace.”


Alberto lived in small community outside Acatlan while Ricardo had grown up in the area but moved away to study and they went into the town to buy supplies to finish work on a well, the BBC reported.

But after they were taken to the police station a rumor began to spread on WhatsApp about them being kidnappers involved in organ trafficking.

“In the past few days, children aged four, eight and 14 have disappeared and some of these kids have been found dead with signs that their organs were removed, read the message.

“Their abdomens had been cut open and were empty. Believe me, the kidnappers are now here."

A mob was whipped up in part by local man Francisco Martinez, who spread the WhatsApp messages.

Another man rang the bell on the town hall to alert locals the police were planning to release the pair.

A third man used a loudspeaker to ask for contributions to buy petrol to set the men on fire, according to the BBC.

Despite the police repeatedly stating Ricardo and Alberto were only minor offenders, a 150 strong lynch mob gathered at the police station.

Footage shows a large group outside their cell and eventually the bars were forced open and the two men were dragged out with ropes and savagely beaten.

They are set on fire in front of a large cheering crowd, holding their phones in the air to film the grisly scene.

Meanwhile Ricardo’s mother Maria began receiving Facebook messages about what was happening and eventually a link to a livestream.

A desperately posted a comment on the livestream saying: "Please don't hurt them, don't kill them, they're not child kidnappers.”

Ricardo's grandmother, Petra Elia Garcia, was called identify the bodies and she said tears were still on Alberto's cheeks.

She shouted at the mob as it began to disperse: "Look what you did to them!"

Four people have been charged with murder of the two men.

A further five people, including Martinez, who broadcast the livestream, the man who asked for petrol, and the man who rang the bells, have been charged with instigating the murder.

Four other suspects are on the run, say police.

In a statement, local prosecutors “ruled out that the deceased had participated in some crime”.

The local governor Martha Erika Alonso said the stretched local police had been unable to protect the men, the BBC reported.

“I strongly condemn the lynching that has arisen, it is inadmissible to do justice by one's own hand," she said.

Central and South American including Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatemala have seen an upsurge in reported lynchings in recent years.

In September 100 strong mob in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo attacked local police and took the detective and three other men captive.

They severely beat the men and burned the detective after dousing him with fuel during the lynching, in the town of Metepec.

An alleged thief was burned alive in public square in the town of Villa Tamulte de las Sabanas in the Mexican state of Tabasco in May,

Raúl Rodríguez Guillén, who has been studying the phenomenon in Mexico for 20 years, said rising crime and poor policing is behind more people taking the law into their own hands.

"The most serious thing that is happening is that authority is eroding and that in the long term I think it is more serious than the growth of crime," he said.

This story originally appeared in The Sun.