Thursday 27 October 2016

Irish families likely among those moved amid child abduction fears

David Kearns

Published 18/06/2015 | 13:25

The Anastasia Beach Complex hotel in Protaras, eastern Cyprus Credit: Thomas Cook
The Anastasia Beach Complex hotel in Protaras, eastern Cyprus Credit: Thomas Cook

Irish holidaymakers may be among dozens of families moved from a hotel in Cyprus, after claims a gang dressed as hotel staff tried to abduct children.

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Tour operator Thomas Cook Ireland confirmed some 50 families were moved to other hotels following an incident involving alleged child-kidnappers, adding that Irish holidaymakers could be among those groups moved from the Anastasia beach complex in the eastern Cyprus.

“About 50 families asked to be moved and, while we do not have details just yet, Irish holidaymakers could likely be among those transferred to other hotels,” said a Thomas Cook spokesperson.

The tour operator was prompted to relocate the families on Tuesday after reports emerged that a group, disguised as waiters, were seen trying to lure three children, all under 10, into cars.

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

A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “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.”

Local reports say a man and a woman were handed over to police by hotel staff after being confronted by holidaymakers, while another man escaped.

A group of up to 10 people was seen around the hotel, filming and taking photos in the week leading up to the arrests, said British holidaymaker Greg Letford.

Speaking to the Daily Record in the UK, the 28-year-old said he saw “a couple leading two young children towards a waiting car.”

“Another person had a third child up against a wall ready to go, too.

“Someone spotted what they were up to and stopped them. If he hadn’t been there those kids would have gone."

However, Cypriot police denied there had been an attempted abduction.

A spokesman said a 19-year-old man had been questioned after holidaymakers reported seeing him use his mobile phone to film young children.

Officers checked his phone and found footage of an adult dance band that was performing at the hotel, the force said. A search of his home found nothing untoward.

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."

The hotel operator also stressed that there was nothing to suggest an attempted abduction had taken place.

A statement from operators Tsokkos said: "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."

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