Child snatch claim is ‘speculation’

POLICE have urged parents not to be alarmed following “unsubstantiated” reports of a child snatcher prowling Belper.

The appeal comes after two children who were walking to school in the town were offered a lift by a man who was driving a 4x4 on April 26. They refused and he drove off. He made no attempt to persuade them into the car or follow them.

Following the incident claims that a “chubby”, “bald-headed man” was trying to “snatch kids” began circulating on social networking site Facebook.

The rumours escalated when two other suspicious incidents followed in a nearby town and village. On May 1 an 11-year-old girl told her mother that a man in a small car drove past her in Middleton but then reversed as if to speak to her. She was frightened and ran off.

Then on Thursday, May 3, a 10-year-old boy in Wirksworth said that, as he was playing outside his home the previous night, a man got out of his car and offered him sweets. The boy ran away and the man drove off.

Police said they were taking the allegations seriously but there have been no other reports of a similar kind in Belper and no reports of any attempted child abductions.

A Derbyshire Police spokesman said: “We are working to clarify what is true and what is speculation. Children have given us different descriptions of both the vehicle and the man involved so we have no reason to link these incidents.

“It may be that some children are being unnecessarily concerned, but as a precaution Safer Neighbourhood officers have spoken to headteachers at local schools. We are asking them to re-enforce the stranger danger messages. Anyone who sees anything suspicious should contact us on 101.”