'Cannibals' rumour sparks fear in Durbs
Hundreds of concerned Phoenix, Verulam and Inanda residents were conned this week by a hoax e-mail and reports of a "black magic cannibal".
News of a "half-human, half-animal thing" circulated in schools, shops and businesses after hundreds of people descended on the Amaoti police station in Inanda last Sunday to enquire about two alleged cannibals.
SAPS spokesman Vincent Mdunge said concerned community members stormed the police station. He was not sure where they had heard that police had arrested cannibals.
Among the variations of the urban legend is that a truck containing the cannibals was hijacked and they "ate the driver, a few children, including one from Brookdale".
The e-mail also contained a photograph of the supposed cannibals preparing to eat a victim.
A local security company spokesman, Prem Balram, said the company had been "inundated with calls from residents who were afraid of being eaten".
"We've received an average of 30 calls a day. We have also been fielding about 30 e-mail queries a day since Sunday regarding the cannibals. Our callouts have increased drastically owing directly to the story in circulation."
Balram said he believed that the rumours had been fuelled by the discovery of four bodies in the north Durban area over the past two months.
One of the four was found in Dawncrest, Phoenix, in August with no internal organs. Another mutilated body was found soon afterwards in the same vicinity.
A third badly burned body was found last Wednesday near the new La Mercy airport, and the fourth body was found in a swampy area in Verulam.
In China, four men were arrested by police in August for circulating a bizarre hoax e-mail claiming that cannibals were responsible for the disappearance of 10 people.
According to international media reports, the bloggers faked photos showing the cannibals preparing to eat a human body. It is believed the same picture was used in the local e-mail.