By Constantinos Psillides
The uproar in the British media over the alleged attempted kidnapping of three children in Protaras was unnecessary and unsubstantiated, the government said on Friday.
In a written statement, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said that police had acted promptly upon receiving information about the case and investigated thoroughly, finding absolutely no evidence pointing towards the existence of a child snatching ring.
“The government wishes to emphatically stress that Cyprus was and remains one of the safest tourist destinations worldwide, both for locals and foreign visitors and their children,” Papadopoulos said.
The story of the alleged attempted kidnapping of three British youngsters in the Anastasia Beach hotel on Tuesday is featured prominently in UK media for the third day.
According to the new reports that surfaced, a similar incident took place at the Anastasia Beach hotel last year. A report in the Daily Mail says that Daniel Mann, 28, was vacationing in the hotel along with his partner and two-year old daughter Lillie when the child went missing. Lillie was reportedly with her father at the pool when she vanished. The child was found 40 minutes later, according to the report, in the hands of an “eastern European” woman who was taking the kid to a nearby parking lot. Mann told the Daily Mail that he demanded of the hotel manager to call police but that he refused telling them that “you’ve got her back, that’s it”.
Hotel manager Giannos Michaelides tells a different story. “I never told them not to call police or that they have their child and that’s it. I do not know to which hotel manager they refer to but I was the one here that day,” Michaelides told the Cyprus Mail, adding that his version of the story is quite different.
“The father came to the reception desk saying that his daughter disappeared. I gave instructions to the staff to start looking for her and we found her half an hour later, walking alone in a street behind the hotel. If my memory serves, the family was either leaving that very day or the morning after,” he said.
These reports sprouted following claims of around 60 UK tourists who took part in a wedding party on Tuesday at the pool area of the Anastasia Beach hotel. The holidaymakers told UK press that a gang of three persons –two men and one woman, all Romanians- were filming their kids and trying to lure them away to a pick-up truck and that their attempt was foiled at the last minute by a passerby.
The reports said that the man and the woman were dragged by the holidaymakers to the reception where police were notified. The third gang member left in a getaway car which crashed a short while after leaving the hotel.
It was also reported that the gang was 18 person strong and that the Romanians where stalking children throughout the week posing as hotel waiters.
Cyprus police have repeatedly dismissed these reports, saying that they only arrested a 19-year old Bulgarian, not two people, that there no was no car crash and that they didn’t find any evidence pointing towards a child-snatching gang.
The 19-year old was questioned, his phone and home searched –with his consent- and police found nothing to indicate that he was part of a child snatching gang. Pictures and video on his phone didn’t feature any children and he was released shortly after his arrest.
Hotel manager Giannos Michaelides also dismissed reports of undercover child snatchers, telling the Cyprus Mail that while an incident did take place on Tuesday it involved only one man and that he was immediately escorted off hotel grounds and handed over to the police.
More recent reports in the UK press say that eight arrests were made regarding the case and that police have another Romanian under custody for a different child abduction case.
“Im at a loss for words. This is getting ridiculous,” deputy police spokesperson Nikoletta Tyrimou told the Cyprus Mail, reiterating that there was only one arrest and that there is no Romanian man under custody for child abduction.
Tour operator Thomas Cook issued a statement on Thursday saying that all they move all holiday makers who requested so to a different hotel.
According to a statement by tour operator Thomas Cook, they are working closely with local police to resolve the matter.