Mystery 'child abduction': man who reported seeing child being bundled into van arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice
A man who sparked a huge police search after reporting seeing a child being bundled into the back of a van, has been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
He was detained and questioned after detectives were unable to find any evidence to corroborate his claims of a child abduction.
The man came forward on Thursday afternoon claiming to have seen a child being forced against their will into the back of a Volkswagen Transporter van on Redstone Hill in Redhill, Surrey.
Police described the witness as "credible" and, despite the fact no child had been reported missing in the area, launched a huge operation.
Officers scoured the scene, undertook forensic searches and even sent up the force helicopter in a desperate bid to establish what had happened.
Detectives issued CCTV images of a black van they believed had been involved but later ruled the driver out of the inquiry after tracing the vehicle.
A child's mountain bike that was found near the scene was also later discounted when a local landlord admitted dumping it there.
Surrey Police also made a series of public appeals for information in a bid to find out more, receiving more than 130 calls from concerned members of the public.
But after being unable to find any evidence to corroborate the witness’s claims, he was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
A spokesman for Surrey Police said: “Officers had no reason to disbelieve the account of the witness and had to act quickly in order to prevent what was suspected to be a risk to the life of a child.
“In the days since, officers have carried out an extensive and thorough investigation into this report which has not brought about any evidence to corroborate it.”
Senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Pete Fulton, said: “The risk to life and safeguarding children are our first priorities when presented with a report like this, which is why we took the course of action we did.
“Time was of the essence, which is why we asked for help from the public and media to find out what happened as soon as we could.
“Reports of this nature are extremely rare and we are sure the public understands that when information such as this is received we treat it extremely seriously and must do all we can to find out investigate what’s happened."
He went on: “It is understandable this has caused a considerable amount of concern and confusion in the area, which will last beyond just these few days.
“We will continue to work with the community and realise that this has been disruptive and had a large impact, however I hope that you are reassured that we take your safety extremely seriously.
“The witness has been re-interviewed at length about their account and at this stage and as a result of our inquiries no further information has come to light to corroborate the report.
“There has been no report of any missing child in connection with the case and we have carried out extensive enquiries.
“These have included reviewing hours of CCTV from across the area, carrying out house-to-house inquiries, talking to commuters at the railway station, checking potential vehicles matching the description and missing children databases, receiving more than 100 calls from members of the public in less than 24 hours, all of which takes a significant amount of time.
“Once again we are extremely grateful for the support from the public and the media.”
The man has been released on bail.