Irish toddler escapes abduction attempt after realizing she was in “stranger danger” and fleeing from van of would-be abductor.
The family of a three-year-old Irish toddler is pleading for help in finding the “monster responsible” for punching and dragging her away from her family at a Co Antrim market.
Poppy-Leigh Gilmore managed to escape her abduction attempt after recognizing that she was in “stranger danger” her Mom had warned her about and fled from the van of the man who was trying to take her.
The little girl was left traumatized by her escape from the abduction attempt and police are calling on the public to help in identifying her attacker.
The brave toddler was found “pale as a sheet” and crying by her 26-year-old mother Sarah-Jane Gilmore, telling her "the wrong man took me, Mummy."
Poppy-Leigh had been walking through the stalls at Nutt’s Corner Market with her Mom, Dad Jake, and one-year-old brother David-James last Sunday when she went missing.
At first, the family thought she had wandered off after they turned to look at a stall for a split second but as they asked around the stalls, others reported that they had seen the little girl with a man they presumed was her father.
“We've no idea what would have happened if she hadn’t got away from him,” Mom Sarah-Jane told the Irish Mirror.
“She has told us she was taken by 'the wrong man' and we spoke to two people who noticed her being dragged off, but they assumed she was with her dad and was crying because she hadn’t got a toy she wanted.
“She keeps apologising saying she is sorry she was rude to the man, sorry she hit him. I keep telling her she did the right thing and she must never doubt herself."
The youngster said that the man punched her hand to take it off her brother’s pram and when she refused to hold his hand, he grabbed it and dragged her along.
“Poppy-Leigh is a confident little girl and we’ve always encouraged her to just be herself and there are times she’ll pull away to walk beside us but I knew there was something wrong because she’s never wandered off anywhere before,” her Mom continued.
“Jake and I separated and stallholders went in various directions.
“I was shouting her name and then another family saw my distress and started shouting her name too.
"One woman said she’d seen her but she was with her dad and crying hard. I told her the man wasn’t her dad and the lady’s face just dropped.
"Another man had also seen her, a preacher with religious leaflets but he thought she was with her daddy too and she wasn’t. Her daddy was frantically looking for her and she had been snatched.
“I ran past the bollards to the car park and from the corner of my eye I saw a flash of her white coat and then it vanished, I was shouting her name shouting to her that it was me, it was her mummy.
“Then I saw the coat again and the wee face all crumpled. When I got to her she was crying so hard and she said: ‘The wrong man took me Mummy.’
“She was sheet white and I was so relieved to get her in my arms but then when she told me what had actually had happened, I got sick.
“She hadn’t walked off, she’d been taken and she screamed and shouted at the man and struggled until she managed to get away from him and she hid in the car park.
“Poppy-Leigh has been learning about stranger danger for the last six months, and she instinctively knew there was something bad going on and she needed to get away to safety.
“Her hand was marked and red by the time I found her and it’s still sore today.
"The man who took her held her hand with great authority.
"Today she’s told me he hurt her hand when she got out of a van so now we know that she’d actually been inside a van and that’s how close she was to being taken.
“We’ve no idea where he went. When the stallholders started to help us look for her they just assumed she was lost, not that she had been abducted and a tannoy announcement was made describing her and her coat.
“Everyone was so helpful at Nutt's Corner Market and the manager stayed with us until we got to speak to the police who've taken the situation very seriously."
She continued: “I would just ask that people use reins for their toddlers to stop this sort of thing being so easy for bad people.
“We are completely traumatised and devastated and Poppy-Leigh is very upset and unsure of herself today, quiet and withdrawn.
“We’d ask everyone to check their phones, scan their memories and try to recall the man who took my daughter on Sunday at Nutt's Corner market while she was wearing a white-spotted coat and her Minnie Mouse glasses. And if they remember anything, even the slightest thing please call the police.”
A spokesperson from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: “Shortly after 3.00 pm police received a report that a three-year-old girl had disappeared whilst at a stall with her mother. The child was located a short time later near a car park in the area.
“At this stage, it is believed that a male has taken the child’s hand and led her away from the area.
“Thankfully the young girl was not harmed in any way, although she is extremely traumatised by her ordeal.”
PSNI Inspector Lindsay McCrea added: “I would appeal to anyone who was at the market in Nutts Corner yesterday and who may have witnessed a male acting suspiciously in and around the stalls to contact police at Antrim on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 1130 06/10/19.
"Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”