TWO young boys were left traumatised after being lured into a car and then intimidated by men to go begging door-to-door.
The youngsters were only found and returned to their worried parents by gardai when a local resident rang to complain about bogus charity collectors targeting their housing estate.
The mother of one 13-year-old said the boy remains deeply upset by what happened in Waterford.
“He was terrified he would never see home again,” she said.
The woman refused to be identified to protect her son’s identity and raised the alarm when her son did not arrive home as expected from a football fun day at 6pm last Sunday.
“It was very frightening for him. They (the men) told him he would not be allowed go home unless he collected the money properly,” she said.
The African national said her son was taught not to talk to strangers or to get into unknown vehicles.
However, he was afraid of the men who approached him as he walked home and feared they might strike him if he didn’t follow their exact instructions.
“He was very scared so he did as he was told. There was another child in the car and they drove to an estate and they had to go door-to-door asking people to sponsor them for football.”
At one point, one of the men told the youngsters they weren’t doing the collections correctly and warned them that if they didn’t get the required amount of money they would not be driven home.
Luckily, one local resident became suspicious of the two youngsters who were calling door-to-door and rang gardai to complain.
The resident had also spotted that the youngsters’ movements were being watched by two men sitting in a parked car.
A garda patrol car entered the estate where the two boys were calling door-to-door and the two men went to drive away.
They were stopped by gardai who became suspicious of the vehicle when it was found to have no valid NCT or motor tax.
The men were questioned but were not arrested.
Both boys were returned to their families unharmed.
They were located less than 2km from their homes.
Gardai are now following a definite line of inquiry in relation to the matter.
One youngster’s mother said he is still shaken by what happened.
“It was a terrible ordeal for them. He was shaking when he came come and has been very frightened ever since,” she said.
The mother issued an appeal via NewsTalk for parents to warn their youngsters about not approaching strangers or unknown cars.
The boy’s father said they were deeply shocked by what had happened and did not want any other family to go through a similar experience.
He paid tribute to gardai for the speed with which they responded to the alert from the suspicious householder.
The parents of the second youngster have so far not lodged a formal complaint with Waterford gardai over the matter.
They are understood to be very protective of their son and, because he was unharmed, do not so far wish to pursue the matter.