This rather chilling tale is currently circulating via social media websites and email. The message claims that a young couple with a baby, identified by airline staff as acting suspiciously while en route to Las Vegas, were later detained and searched by authorities. According to the message, the police found that, not only was the baby dead, but its organs had been removed and its body had been packed with illicit drugs.
Versions of the tale have been passed around via word of mouth and - later - email, since the 1970's at least. During the mid-90's, email variants like the example below began circulating:
There was a couple from Texas who were planning a weekend trip across the Mexican border for a shopping spree. At the last minute, their babysitter canceled, so they had to bring along their two-year old son with them. They had been across the border for an hour when the boy got free and ran around the corner. The mother tried to find him, but he had gone missing. The mother found a police officer who told her to go to the gate and wait. Not really understanding the instructions, she did as she was told.
About 45 minutes later, a Mexican man approached the border, carrying the boy. The mother ran to him, grateful that he had been found. When the man realized it was the boy’s mother, he dropped him and ran. The police were waiting for him. The boy was dead, and in the 45 minutes he was missing, he had been cut open, all of his organs were removed, and he was stuff with bags of cocaine. The man was going to carry him across the border as if he were asleep.
Some time later social media versions also made their appearance.
Here is where the story gets a little more complicated. In May 2000, a story appeared via Reuters news that seemingly confirmed the old urban legends. According to the report, drug smugglers had abducted and killed a small girl and stuffed her body with illegal drugs in an effort to get them into a Gulf state. Another report in the UK's The Guardian also related the story.
However, the claims in these reports have never been substantiated. The Guardian apparently based its story - quite vaguely - on what a "senior police officer was reported as saying". No other sources are cited. No other evidence is presented. The airport where the alleged crime took place is simply listed in the article as "unnamed". The article states that the police officer who reported the story "was describing how smugglers are resorting to increasingly desperate and cruel measures to conceal their wares". However, the article later notes that the officer made the remarks during a talk about drugs to Zayed University students that was reported by Gulf News the following day.
The case described is remarkably similar in detail to many earlier stories that turned out to be false. Too similar for mere coincidence, one suspects. In fact, it seems quite possible – even probable – that the police officer was simply repeating a local version of the same old urban legend that had circulated for decades previously.
Other than articles that rehashed the same material reported by Reuters and The Guardian, I am yet to find any credible reports that confirm that the incident described actually took place. In fact, a Gulf News report from September 2005 dismissed rumours of such crimes as false, noting:
A senior law official has rubbished rumours that drugs are being smuggled in baby's bodies. "No cases of smuggling drugs inside dead babies have been registered at the Dubai Public Prosecution Department," said the official at the department.
And, regardless of the veracity of the Gulf States story, it is clear that the events described in the Las Vegas version incuded above did not take place. As noted earlier, there are no reports of such a horrific crime taking place in Las Vegas or anywhere else in the United States. You can rest assured that, if it were true, such a case would have been widely reported by news outlets around the world.
Moreover, the scenario described in the message is improbable at best. Given the high levels of airport security in post 9/11 America, it seems virtually impossible that a couple could carry a dead baby through a busy airport, through security screening and on to an aircraft without being noticed and examined more closely. Even babies and young children go through a screening process in the same way that other passengers do.
While they may be entertaining in a macabre sort of way, such tales can also raise unnecessary fear and alarm among communities. Sending on made-up nonsense such as this will help nobody.
Last updated: March 22, 2013