Web rumours fuel parents' fears over child snatchers

POLICE have moved to reassure parents that there are not child snatchers lurking in their area after an internet rumour spread like wildfire.

Panicked parents in Midlothian have fuelled the flames by posting updates on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

It follows an alleged incident in the Homebase car park in Straiton Retail Park, where a woman was reported to be acting suspiciously towards an eight-year-old boy. The youngster's mother later spoke of her fear that she had been trying to entice him into her car.

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Police investigated but said they found "no information that can lead to us conclude that an attempt to abduct a child took place".

However, since then there have been several unsubstantiated "sightings" of the same yellow car lurking outside Gorebridge and Bonnyrigg primary schools, Cuicken Primary in Penicuik and Lasswade High.

Facebook and Twitter chat has been buzzing with the rumours, and the Evening News has received several e-mails calling for an investigation. Some even claim that the supposed child snatchers have actually been successful in abducting children.

One man e-mailed to say he heard about the "abductions" from a neighbour who works at Gorebridge Primary.

He said: "Over the past week or so there have been a number of child abductions in the Midlothian area.

"One at Straiton Retail Park, and at primary schools in Gorebridge and Penicuik. Parents are very concerned.

"A young foreign-looking couple are doing the attempted snatches, using a yellow car.

"Only coverage of this is really via Facebook. I think there needs to be more news coverage to alert parents. Everyone is scared and keeping their kids in the house. A lot of people are worried."

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Scott Birse, from Buckstone, also claimed schools were being advised to be vigilant following the incident in Straiton.

He said: "There have been two further incidents, I believe in Gorebridge and Penicuik, possibly involving the same couple in a yellow car.

"There seem to be rumours of a further two incidents. This seems quite a big issue. I would like to hear that the police are on the case."

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman confirmed that their officers responded to an incident on 23 June in the car park of Homebase at Straiton, where a woman was reported to be acting suspiciously.

However, he said they had received no calls about any more sightings, and dismissed the further claims as hearsay.

The spokesman added: "A full investigation has been carried out in respect of (the 23 June] incident, and there is no information that can lead us to conclude that an attempt to abduct a child took place.

"We have received no reports from the public regarding any further incidents of this nature that have taken place in Midlothian. However, we would appeal to anyone who has any information to contact police immediately.

"Lothian and Borders Police and partner agencies are committed to protecting our communities and everyone within them, and we will respond vigorously to any reports where there is a risk to children involved."


Laurie Connelly (@LaurieConnelly1) wrote:

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"Okay so people of Edinburgh, ATTENTION please!!! In the past week there have been 3 attempts of child abduction in Midlothian...

"...All cases Involved a yellow car! Areas have been cuicken primary school, bonnyrigg primary school and Lasswade high school...

"...If you see anything please contact the police."

"Okay so ya know my tweets earlier about the child abductor attempts? Make it 4 attempts now, they tried again at Gorebridge primary yestrday"

Christie Stephen (@–Christeeh) said:

"there basically kidnappers in a yellow car going round Edinburgh tryna (& succeedin) steal kids...

"one outside cuiken primary and one outside homebase at straiton apparently! :O seemingly in ladywood earlier!..."

"...Just ran round the house locking every window and door!"

Abbey Little (@Abbybabbyy) said:

"...scary stuff. I'm glad I'm safely in my house...

" . . . hopefully it'll be okay."

Karen Ferguson (Facebook) said:

"Bairns aint safe now last week in the pans (white van) then gorebridge the day (yellow car) beware parents."