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Cyprus denies 'child snatch' claims

Published 18/06/2015

The Foreign Office said it provided advice to a family whose children were targeted in an apparent abduction bid in Cyprus
The Foreign Office said it provided advice to a family whose children were targeted in an apparent abduction bid in Cyprus

Authorities in Cyprus have denied there was a child abduction attempt at a hotel popular with British holidaymakers.

An investigation was launched following an incident on June 16 at the Anastasia Beach complex in Protaras.

Dundee holidaymaker Greg Letford, 28, told the Daily Record newspaper that a couple had led two young children towards a waiting car and another person had a third child "ready to go".

However local police said a 19-year-old man had been questioned and released after tourists reported seeing a man filming young children on his mobile phone.

Nothing untoward was found on his phone or during a search of his home, the force said, and officers returned to the hotel to speak to tourists who were concerned that the man was part of a child abduction gang.

Police said they did not find any evidence of this and that the travel company and the UK High Commission office in Cyprus "had expressed their full satisfaction" with their handling of the incident.

The Foreign Office confirmed it had provided assistance to a British family following a "concerning incident", while tour operator Thomas Cook said the matter was being taken "incredibly seriously".

Police deputy spokeswoman Nikoletta Tyrimou told the Cyprus Mail: "We questioned the suspect, went through his phone and also searched his home.

"Nothing we found suggests that he is part of a child-abducting gang or that he was stalking children.

"He has since been released while police take statements from all those present at the scene."

Hotel operator Tsokkos said the child abduction claims were "completely unjustifiable".

The Anastasia Beach complex, on the eastern tip of Cyprus, is described on the Thomas Cook website as being a "perfect family choice".

A spokeswoman said: "The safety and welfare of our customers is always our first priority and, upon hearing about the incident, we immediately deployed our experienced resort team to the property to provide those customers in residence with individual support.

"Customers who did not wish to stay at the property were immediately moved to alternative hotels of a similar or higher standard.

"While incidents of this nature are extremely rare, we would like to reassure all customers that this is being taken incredibly seriously and we are continuing to work closely with the local authorities and the hotel as the investigation continues.

"Any customers with concerns about future holidays at this hotel are asked to contact us directly so that we can deal with them personally and directly."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "Our consular officers provided advice and support to the family involved following this concerning incident. This is now a matter for the local police who are investigating."

Tsokkos said in a statement: "According to the police investigation, the claims of child abduction are completely unjustifiable and invalid as nothing was found to suggest that the person involved intended to carry out such an act.

"The 19-year-old man involved is not an employee of the hotel and is not a known person to either the management or staff.

"The safety and welfare of our guests is always our first priority and upon becoming aware of the incident, we immediately increased the security personnel at the hotel as well as deployed more management members throughout the property to offer all in-house guests assistance and any other support needed."

Thomas Cook said it had assisted 16 customer bookings who requested a move to another hotel and two families w ho travelled back to the UK early.

The spokeswoman said: "Although there are conflicting reports as to what exactly occurred at the property, we would like to reassure all customers that we take all allegations incredibly seriously and we are continuing to work closely with our customers in resort and the local authorities."

The tour operator said it continues to offer holidays to the Anastasia Beach and Cyprus, "where customers are continuing to enjoy their holidays with us".

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