According to Missing Children South Africa, over 90 individuals go missing each month. Worldwide, that alarming figure grows to 2,130 people vanishing into thin air every single day and 64,851 people every month, says the World Population Review.
Among other reasons, missing people either fall victim to dangerous circumstances, are met with foul play, are human trafficked, or rarely, just vanish on their own accord.
This is why when an American woman, Carlethia “Carlee” Russell, went missing under suspicious circumstances, her case was quickly picked up by the media and went viral on social media platforms, especially TikTok.
The Hoover Police Department said the 26-year-old originally disappeared on July 13 after reporting to officials that she saw a child strolling on the side of a busy freeway in Alabama and stopped to help.
However, as the story developed, several holes were found, and as a result, the authorities have grown doubtful.
Russell is said to have told the 911operator that she pulled over her car to check on the child and contacted a family member before losing contact. Officers arrived five minutes later to find her gone, her car engine was still running, and the kid was nowhere in sight.
Things took a turn when Russell returned home two days later. She claimed that she had been abducted by a white male with “orange hair” and held hostage in a lorry trailer and a residence, before fleeing.
However, police said captured video footage from a traffic camera contradicted her story.
Hoover Police Department chief Nicholas Derzis said in a media conference, “To think that a toddler, barefoot, that could be three or four-years-old, is going to travel six football fields without getting on the roadway, without crying, is very hard for me to understand.
“Carlee’s 911 call remains the only report of a child on the interstate, despite numerous vehicles passing through the area at that time. We don’t see anyone on the interstate other than her car, and then someone getting out of her driver’s side.”
Additionally, as the case had grew to be high profile, the Secret Service became involved. When analysing her smartphone and other devices, she is said to have searched, “Do you have to pay for amber alert or search?”
An amber alert is an emergency response mechanism that distributes information about a missing person (typically a child) through media broadcasts or electronic roadside signs.
Russell conducted online research on the hit action/thriller film “Taken,” whose plot is that an ex-Secret Service agent's teenage daughter is abducted.
Netizens have changed their tune when it comes to Russell. They accuse her of lying about being abducted to gain attention and sympathy from her community and online.
Dr Todd Grande, a licensed professional counsellor of mental health, gave his opinion on the matter on YouTube. He claimed that he believes that Russell deliberately fabricated the kidnapping story.
“There are three possible motives; monetary gain, to hide behaviour that was occurring during the time of the incident or to attract attention. She is not going to make money from this story, her actions do not appear to hide her behaviour for the two days that she was missing ... Carlee’s adventure seems to have been designed to attract attention,” he said.
Grande added that this was not necessarily the attention of the public, since she had not spoken to the media, but that of a small audience. He said this could have been aimed at a few people she wanted to teach what it would be like if she disappeared.