Two innocent men were dragged out of a jail cell and burned alive by a cheering mob as rumours of child abductors spread rapidly on WhatsApp.
According to BBC, the incident 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. ”
The two men were taken to the police station when a rumour about them being child kidnappers and involved in organ trafficking was spread over messaging platform WhatsApp by a local man named Francisco Martinez.
The message read, “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.”
The message further read, “Their abdomens had been cut open and were empty. Believe me, the kidnappers are now here.”
As the men were being released, a man rang the bell in the town hall to alert locals the police were planning to release the pair, while another used a loudspeaker to ask for contributions to buy petrol to set the men on fire.
Despite the police repeatedly stating Ricardo and Alberto were only minor offenders, a 150-strong lynch mob gathered at the police station.
The video which was live streamed on Facebook, showing a large group outside their cell and eventually the bars are forced open and the two men dragged out with ropes and savagely beaten.
They were then set on fire in front of a large cheering crowd, holding their phones in the air to film the grisly scene.
As men were tortured and set on fire, Ricardo’s mother, Maria started receiving Facebook messages about what was happening and eventually a link to a lifestream.
She desperately posted a comment on the lifestream saying: “Please don’t hurt them, don’t kill them, they’re not child kidnappers.”
The two men – an uncle and his nephew – who were set upon by a mob of villagers were falsely accused after they were spotted near an elementary school.
Four people have been charged with murder of the two men.
A further five people, including Mr Martinez, who broadcast the lifestream, 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.
Central and South American countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatemala have seen an upsurge in reported lynchings in recent years.
In September, a 100-strong mob in Metepec, 60km west of Mexico City, 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.
And in May, an alleged thief was burned alive in public square in the town of Villa Tamulte de las Sabanas in the south of the country.
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.