A woman armed with a pram allegedly attempted to lure away a one-year-old girl in the middle of a busy supermarket.
Josie Hill was in the baby products aisle on Tuesday (September 27) when her 23-month-old daughter Lottie was approached by a stranger who looked as if she was trying to lead the girl away.
Josie said the woman, who has been described as in her late 30s or early 40s, quickly turned around and “shot off” when she spotted her.
She said she hadn’t heard the woman asking Lottie to go with her because of where she was in the aisle.
Josie said: “This woman took advantage when she thought no one was watching and she thought the bairn was on her own. It fills me with dread.
“My eyes were on Lottie all the time, I was stood in the middle of a split aisle, and she was about three or four steps away from me in the main aisle, but anyone near Lottie further down the main aisle wouldn’t have been able to see me.
“The woman had a big pram with her but I’m convinced there wasn’t a baby in there, there wasn’t any blankets either, so I’m now thinking she is walking around with an empty pram looking for a bairn.
“I just want to put awareness out. This happens too much and people need to be warned.”
Katrina Bateman, 23, who was shopping in the Tesco store in Hull East Yorks., at the same time as Josie, said she initially assumed the woman trying the lead Lottie away was her mum.
Katrina, who didn’t know Josie before she went into the store, said after the suspected abductor walked away she became worried for Lottie’s safety and attempted to find her to make sure her mum hadn’t abandoned her.
She said: “I could see the toddler and I saw this woman go up to her and say, ‘come on then’, and just thought it was her mum.
“When I saw the toddler walk away the other way and saw the woman I thought was the mum turn around, I went up to the girl and said, ‘Come on, princess – let’s go find your Mummy’.
“Then this other woman said, ‘I’m her Mummy’.
“I was really confused and felt really bad but said to her that some other woman had just asked her to go with her.”
Josie said had it not been for Katrina she would not have realised what had happened, but said the woman started acting suspiciously as she got closer to her down the baby aisle.
She said: “It was just really strange, she all of a sudden shot off. It wasn’t until Katrina told me what she had said to her that I realised what had happened.
“Because of the way the aisles are, I couldn’t see Katrina or the woman further down until she walked up and they couldn’t see me, but we could all see Lottie.
“Parents need to know this is happening. It all happened in about two seconds.
“I do let Lottie out the pram when we go shopping because she likes to have a walk about – otherwise she will scream the shop down and annoy everyone else, but she’s never out my sight.
“There’s no way this woman could have taken her because I had my eyes on her, but this woman didn’t know that until she saw me.”
Katrina posted on social media to warn parents about what she witnessed.
In a post that has been shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook, she wrote: “Be aware, just witnessed a little girl about 3 years old almost being abducted in Tesco, St. Stephens. Keep your child literally next to you. Crazy, you can’t even do your shopping these days.”
Katrina believes she is “98 per cent” certain the woman was trying to abduct Lottie.
She said: “I honestly think if the little girl had followed her, she would have taken her away.
“She was asking her to go with her. I just want to warn people to keep their child next to them because it can happen literally anywhere.
“After the toddler walked off, the woman walked off the other way but she was walking faster than you would. I think maybe she saw me looking.”
Security guards scoured the store for the woman after the incident which happened between 2pm and 2.30pm but couldn’t find her.
Josie has now reported the woman to the police.
The woman, who is in her late 30s or early 40s, has been described as having short blonde hair with dark streaks in it.
She was wearing a black bomber jacket and was pushing a large black pram.
Humberside Police have been contacted for comment.