Mum of toddler who fled abductor pleads ‘help me find monster responsible’

The mother of a toddler who escaped an attempted abduction has pleaded: 'Help me find the monster responsible'.

Traumatised Poppy-Leigh, three, was punched and dragged away by a man before being put into a van as her mum's back was turned at a market.

The quick-thinking youngster, who had been learning about stranger danger at nursery, knew there was something bad going on and that she needed to get away to safety, reports Belfast Live.

She screamed, shouted and struggled until she managed to get away from the man and hid in a car park where distraught mum Sarah-Jane Gilmore, 26, found her "pale as a sheet".

Sobbing Poppy-Leigh told her: "The wrong man took me Mummy".

The harrowing ordeal unfolded in a "split second" and sparked a desperate search of Nutt's Corner Market in Co Antrim.

Mum-of-two Sarah-Jane, from Cullybackey, said: “We've no idea what would have happened if she hadn’t got away from him.

“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."

Poppy-Leigh was with her mum Sarah-Jane, dad Jake and one-year-old brother David-James, on Sunday at around 3pm and at first they thought she had wandered off.

The family were browsing the stalls and in the time it took Sarah-Jane to turn to her husband and point out an item she liked, Poppy-Leigh was gone.

She had been holding the handle of her brother’s pram while standing beside her mum when she was approached from behind.

The youngster told her mum she had been hit in the back, which made her let go of the handle of the pram.

She said a man then told her to take his hand and when she refused, he grabbed her hand and walked off with her.

Sarah-Jane explained: “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.

“Jake and I separated and stall holders 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.


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