Over 100 tourists on holiday have been evacuated from a hotel by the tour operator after families there were targeted by an international gang of child-snatchers.
Leading British tour operator Thomas Cook moved about 120 British and Irish holidaymakers from the hotel in Cyprus over fears for children’s safety, following the arrest of an Eastern European couple in the act of apparently trying to lead young children into a waiting car, the Irish Mirror reported. Media in the UK have also publicised the incident.
Holidaymakers said the children, all aged under 10, were moments from being abducted at the resort near Protaras in Cyprus.
The children were reportedly being led into a car by a man and woman – believed to be Romanians – when a guest at the resort saw what was going on. The alleged abductors were apprehended, dragged to the hotel office and handed over to local police.
A guest told the paper that one of the would-be abductors got away and an alleged getaway car crashed a short distance from the hotel.
Police arrived to find an angry crowd of about 70 holidaymakers – mainly from Scotland and Ireland – at the hotel office. They arrested the Eastern European couple for their own safety.
Thomas Cook offered the holidaymakers a new hotel in nearby Pathos, the paper reported, and is reviewing security at the other property.
Thomas Cook issued a statement saying that while such incidents were extremely rare, “we’d like to reassure all customers this is being taken incredibly seriously and we are continuing to work closely with the local authorities”.
Abduction of children on holiday is a major concern in Britain.
Highly publicised previous cases include Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old who vanished in 2007 from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, a resort in the Algarve region of Portugal. Years before, in 1991, Ben Needham disappeared at the age of 21 months from the Greek island of Kos.
Despite numerous reported sightings over the years, neither child has been located and the circumstances of their disappearance remain a mystery.
Written by Peter Needham