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Stranger touching DS in station store - v v long, but seeking reassurance that IWNBU

(139 Posts)
GertrudeSlojinski Sun 14-Jul-13 03:01:04

After a looong day, DS (4yo) and I popped into a store at Victoria Station to pick up a piece of plastic tat little toy I had promised him. DS is standing right next to me looking at one stand, I was looking at the opposite stand. DS and I don't look very alike at all, so it is possible that anyone looking at us could have thought he was unaccompanied (other than the lady i.e. me! standing within 45cm of him!).

Suddenly, out of the blue, a man (white male, wearing glasses, 50s/60s, approx 5'10", wearing a casual suit but of slightly dishevelled appearance) appears/stands next to DS - he is looking higher up the same stand and, without removing his gaze from that higher level, puts his arm around DS and starts to touch/fondle DS's shoulder whilst appearing to pull DS closer to him as though to lead him away. Poor DS froze! It happened in a split second and was clearly deliberate!

I immediately pulled DS away and challenged the man, telling him to get his hands off my son and not deign to touch him again. The man looks at me as though in anger but says nothing. I don't know how to explain it but his reaction made me think that perhaps he was not NT. He offered no explanation/excuse at all (e.g. he thought DS was alone and was trying to help). He then looks over at the stand again in a bid (I assume) to ignore me. I challenge him again, telling him he had no right to approach or lay a finger on my son. He turns to me and his response (said in a low voice but which he deliberately intended me to hear) was, "And why shouldn't I?". This chilled me to the bone and I pointed out that there was a video camera trained directly at us and I would report the incident to the British Transport Police. I turn around to find a member of staff - whilst telling them what just happened and pointing the man out to them, the man slips past us, leaving the store.

At this point, I deliberately made a decision to follow him out of the store. My short-term memory is atrocious and, having been a victim of an assault a few years ago, I remembered how difficult it was to give an accurate eye-witness description of the perpetrators. I almost wanted to leave it be but, given his reaction on being challenged, all I could think was that the man was clearly a risk (be that to himself if he in fact was not NT, or others).

I found him standing in the station concourse staring at the display (without his glasses on), as though looking for a train to catch. I took my phone out and said to him that I was going to take a photo of him and send it on to the BTP (I know you can take photos of people in public areas without requesting their consent, but I wanted to avoid any possibility of my actions being accused as underhand/surreptitious). He appeared to take a step towards me and DS and I say again loudly that he is not to touch my child. I wanted to get as many people's attention as possible. I leave the man staring after DS and I, and we return to the store. I tell the staff again what just happened, that I had taken a photo of the man and that I was going to file a report with the BTP. They reassured me and told me that they would happily give up any CCTV to the BTP to assist. To try and regain some normalcy for DS and reassure him that he had done nothing wrong, DS and I continue browsing.

One of the store staff suddenly approached me and DS and asked if I would recognise the man. I said yes and asked why. Turns out the man had just come back into the store! He was approaching the children's section again but on seeing me and the member of staff looking at him, turns on his heel and leaves the store. He goes to sit on one of the public benches and proceeds to stare into the store.

At this point, I decide that I shouldn't wait to file a report with the BTP. I head back into the station (the man stares at me and DS, and I stared back to show I was not going to be cowed) and approach the ticket barriers and request that the guards contact the BTP. All the while, the man is still sitting on the same bench but, by this time, has turned around/changed his seat to face me and DS. I pick DS up and turn his face away so he can't see the man staring at us, and I explain to him what is going on. A member of the BTP finally turns up after what seems like ages. I look towards the bench but the man appears to have moved on shortly before.

After a brief walk-around, we never did find the man. Long story short, the BTP took a statement from me and I emailed them the pictures there and then. I was nervous that perhaps I had overreacted but they reassured me that I had done the right thing. They said that they would put his details out to the guards at the barriers to be on the look-out should he try to board a train.

Then, half an hour later, I receive a phone call from the Met who appear to imply that it is only worth their pursuing it if I thought there was any adverse intent to the man's actions. The officer I spoke to didn't use the word "sexual" at any point, but it seemed clear to me that that was what he meant. I told him that I could not say with all certainty what the man's intention was, but it clearly could not be positive if he made no attempt to offer any rational explanation about/for his behaviour. I was told they will contact me should anything come up.

I'm not hopeful that the man will be found. I am still shaking and seething about the whole thing. I have, in the past, given DS the "talk" several times about what to do if he is approached by anyone, strangers or not, and that he is to tell them in a loud voice to leave him alone and immediately shout for/come and get me or his father, but my poor 4yo just froze in shock/fear. I feel like I failed to protect DS, and worse, may even have put him at further risk by going after the man to take a photo. All I could think the whole time was that I wanted to hit the man for touching my baby and make sure he doesn't get the chance to do that to someone else's child. Now finding it hard to sleep as I keep replaying the incident in my head. I know in my heart of hearts that my actions were probably not unreasonable, but some reassurance would be much appreciated.

pigletmania Sun 14-Jul-13 17:20:19

Yanbu you did the right thing. You dont know this man, and what his intentions were, they might have been fine, but might have been much more sinister. Watched the Moores murder documentary on replay last night, and it chilled me to the core. No well done op, you could save a child's life and your ds. He had a total disregard for you and your ds, instead of apologising and trying to explain, his reaction was quite shocking

pigletmania Sun 14-Jul-13 17:22:13

Scary as you said it looked as though he was going to be led away. That itself is shocking, you saved your ds life

thebody Sun 14-Jul-13 17:27:48

well done you. how bloody scary. I bet you wanted to kill him but instead did the right thing.

hope you and ds are ok.

Finola1step Sun 14-Jul-13 17:31:40

Can I just add my admiration OP. what you did was spot on. Please do pursue it through BTP.

pigletmania Sun 14-Jul-13 17:36:24

Yes especially as you said he was back again in the chi,dress section of Smiths, probably trying to find another child. Yes please do pursue it with the police

SlimePrincess Sun 14-Jul-13 17:40:04

Bloody well done flowers

pigletmania Sun 14-Jul-13 17:46:35

Op he sounds completely cognis mentis, his responses were chilling, he knew exactly what he was doing.

daisychain01 Sun 14-Jul-13 17:52:18

Thank goodness for people like you! You were brave and quick-thinking during a shocking ordeal. Plus you have officially alerted the authorities to a potentially dangerous person in a busy public place. You never put a foot wrong. Wow!! Xxx

MeerkatMerkin Sun 14-Jul-13 17:52:24

Fuck, if he had decided he was going to lure a child away today, and failed with your son, that meant his return to the children's section of the store was to go preying again. shock OP you did absolutely the right thing and did NOT overreact. Thank you for posting this - it has reminded me to be more vigilant. My DS is 2 but wants to be independent so sometimes I do leave some distance as he does some things, whilst keeping an eye on him of course, but in a busy place it could take seconds to lose sight of him.

Glad you and your DS are ok, anyway. You are amazing for responding so efficiently.

pigletmania Sun 14-Jul-13 17:54:59

Definitely have dev wearing a backpack thingy in public because of stuff like this

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Sun 14-Jul-13 18:02:43

I would hope to have your presence of mind. I don't think you over-reacted at all (and I am rather shocked at the Police response so far). This is one of my major dreads, when out alone with all my children.

SisterMonicaJoan Sun 14-Jul-13 18:10:41

You were amazing OP, such quick thinking.

His reply was absolutely chilling. And I shudder just thinking of him going back into the store..

VivaLeBeaver Sun 14-Jul-13 18:18:56

I think your actions were great.

Don't be surprised by your 4yo freezing.

A man took dd by the hand in ikea when she was 12yo and started leading her away from me. She froze rather than scream for me (I was distracted and hadn't noticed at this point). Bloke starts tugging at her and then he realised she wasn't his dd and was totally mortified. But I was surprised dd didn't start hollering.

RoxyFox211 Sun 14-Jul-13 18:19:02

Yanbu! Hope they are doing enough to catch this man.

PatsyAndEddy Sun 14-Jul-13 18:41:51

Oh my this is horrifying

comedycentral Sun 14-Jul-13 19:10:09

I actually feel like crying reading this. You did so well OP.

faulkernegger Sun 14-Jul-13 19:21:08

DNBU. Make your DS practise shouting out loud. I've told both my dcs to make as much noise as possible if anything untoward happens. Well done for your presence of mind! flowers

cocolepew Sun 14-Jul-13 19:24:58

You definitely did the right thing, horrifying.

I remember walking through a shopping centre with DD1. I was holding her hand and a man walking towards us out his arm and ran his hand through her hair as he passed, he looked forwards the whole time. Me and DH looked at each other in shock but the time we turned around we had lost him. It might not seem much but it was so creepy and I remember it vividly 12 years later.

MadBusLady Sun 14-Jul-13 19:33:51

You did everything right. What a horrible experience. I am regularly in that Smiths, I shall keep an eye out!

Canidae Sun 14-Jul-13 19:43:03

I was prepared to read an AIBU about someone touching a PFB's hand or head while chatting but after reading this I say YANBU and well done for acting like you did. What he said to you was chilling and I hope you and your son are ok.

GertrudeSlojinski Mon 15-Jul-13 11:29:17

I realised that the person who took my statement had asked me to send the photos to a gmail address. I don't know why I hadn't picked up on this being rather odd at the time.

I just called the British Transport Police to follow up on what happened on Saturday, and spoke to a call handler. It turns out that the person who took my statement and to whom I sent the photos was a PCSO. The BTP call handler could not explain why the PCSO had given me a gmail address. I asked whether they had received the photos I took. Turns out they hadn't - all they had were some CCTV photos of outside the WH Smith (didn't say whether the man could be seen in them or not). Even worse, the person who had called me back on Saturday evening half an hour after I gave my statement categorically said in their report that I had said there was no negative intent behind the man's behaviour. The BTP call handler I spoke to on the phone this morning said that, on the face of it, "it looked like a fairly black-and-white" incident and there was nothing in there about what the man had said to me when I challenged him, or the fact that he had come back into the store, had stared at me and DS whilst in the shop and at the ticket barriers etc.

I had to stop him there in floods of (angry) tears. Apparently, they are going to get someone more senior to call me back. I have sent the photos on again (this time to a verified BTP email address).

I have stopped crying and now I am just angry. The last time I filed an incident with the police was when I was assaulted on a bus at 5/6 months pregnant (I had a verbal altercation with some kids who then deliberately tried to push me down the stairs of the top deck of the bus). The police indicated they were not interested in pursuing it until it came out in our conversation that I was pregnant (the officer asked if I was "visibly" pregnant - it would appear that could put a different slant to things hmm). Nothing came of that either. They did not bother requesting CCTV from the bus company. I told them that those children were likely to take the same bus at the same time the following day, but they made it clear they were not going to bother checking. After that, I never followed it up with the police but I kept thinking that those 'children' were likely to believe they had gotten away with what they did, making it all the more likely that they would do the same (if not worse) to someone else.

That previous experience makes me think that I don't want to go over Saturday's incident yet again when it looks more and more likely that nothing will come of it. If it had just happened to me, I don't think I would have bothered making a call to the BTP to follow it up. However, the fact that my son was involved makes me want to act otherwise. Please do feel free to tell me if I'm being melodramatic here - I promise not to take offence. On the one hand, I don't want to dwell on it unnecessarily and/or waste police time (after all, they probably have more pressing immediate emergencies to deal with) but I'm finding it hard to stop with the 'what if's - all I keep thinking is, what if he does this to someone else's child? What if, next time, his behaviour escalates?

tigerlilygrr Mon 15-Jul-13 11:34:12

OP, please do pursue this even if your experience so far has been far below the standards I would expect of police. I'm not saying they should march in and arrest him but surely they should take an accurate statement with your photos and file it. Please try again, you can see from the thread how many of us would be very unnerved by this incident (and how grateful we are to people like you who have the presence of mind to take a stand). I know it's an unpleasant incident you would rather forget but I think that will be easier for you once you know that the matter has been dealt with properly.

pigletmania Mon 15-Jul-13 11:43:48

I am shocked at how appealingly you were treated by th police. I certainly would have been their fault if te man had gone back to Smiths and abducted a child. No you have to do something. Call 101, or 999, the BTP sound as useful ad a chocolate teapot. Think Ames Bulger, April Jones it could easily happen, the complacency of th Police is shocking

SisterMonicaJoan Mon 15-Jul-13 12:07:13

You are not being melodramatic OP and I'm sorry to hear of your previous experience of both the incident itself and the police response.

You sound like such a strong, caring person and hard as it is, I think you will regret it if you did not follow this through. Like you said, what if he does this again or esclates?

I'm shocked the police have reacted like this.

MrsWilliamBodie Mon 15-Jul-13 12:09:17

You are not being melodramatic.

You are wonderful flowers

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