E-mail scare over abduction claim

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2010, 12:00am

Police were last night investigating an e-mail circulating in Hong Kong falsely claiming that two Chinese women attempted to abduct a two-year-old Western boy at Ocean Park.

The e-mail - which spread quickly across the city after being sent out as a warning to a handful of parents - claims the women snatched the boy from his stroller after fussing over him at the theme park on Friday afternoon.

Signed by a woman called Diane, who describes herself as a close friend of the mother involved, it claims the would-be kidnappers put a hat or scarf over the boy's head to cover him up before being stopped by a passer-by.

The e-mail, described as 'unsubstantiated and unfounded' by Ocean Park, says: 'When my friend talked to security, their first words were, 'Not again', at which my friend got understandably very angry with them.

'Ocean Park staff said they didn't want any 'fuss' and tried to play it down, so she called the police and they have formally lodged it as an attempted child abduction.'

It goes on to claim that a 'friendly security guard' later told the mother it was the second incident of its kind in three weeks involving non-Chinese infants at Ocean Park.

However, Ocean Park insisted last night that the incident never took place and said it had called in police to investigate the damaging claims.

'Ocean Park treats such allegations very seriously and will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the general public and all guests at Ocean Park,' a spokeswoman said.

'The park has therefore notified the Hong Kong police force and has sought their assistance in investigating the above matter.

'The park has a strong security system in place to ensure the safety and well-being of its guests at all times. Security guards are stationed at key attraction areas and regular patrolling sessions are conducted throughout the day within the premises of Ocean Park.

'In addition, a CCTV surveillance system is in place to monitor all major attractions, entry and exit points of these attractions, as well as other public areas within Ocean Park.'

A spokeswoman for the police confirmed there was no reported attempted abduction at the theme park on Friday and said officers had spoken to officials from Ocean Park about the incident.

The e-mail was circulated to all parents by the principal of ESF Abacus International Kindergarten, Frances Hurley, who distributed it with a message to parents: 'I am not sure of the origin, however I didn't think it would do any harm to forward it so that you can be extra vigilant during the holidays.'

Anxious parents circulated the e-mail to others with many ringing Ocean Park to check details of the alleged incident. The e-mail was also copied to every employee in one of Hong Kong's leading banks.

Inquiries by the South China Morning Post indicate that the e-mail was first sent out on Sunday and some of the earliest people to pass it on were members of a women's book club on Hong Kong Island.

One of the first people to receive the e-mail said the writer of it heard the story directly from the mother at a bar on Saturday night and passed it on in an e-mail to three friends on Sunday.

'Diane can't believe that an e-mail she sent to three friends with small kids has turned into this,' the person said. 'The e-mail seems to have spiralled out of control and she is trying to clarify what really happened and then put the record straight.'