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Posted by portugalpress on September 13, 2018

It only took seconds for her aunt to realise what had happened, but in those heart-stopping moments the slight, dark-haired six-year-old had been led metres down the street by the mystery woman who took her hand in a packed chemists in the centre of town.

The little girl didn’t realise she wasn’t holding on to her aunt’s hand, she later explained.

As her aunt yelled her name in panic from the doorway of the chemists, the child looked up in shock to a face she didn’t recognise and ran back.

“It was moments,” the little girl’s mother has since told us. “But if that woman had rounded the corner that was honestly so close to the point they had reached, it could have all been so different. Lagos was packed. My sister might never have found her...”

The story is all the more disconcerting in that police, by the time the Resident met up with the couple, appeared to have done very little.

The parents made a complaint to Lagos PSP the minute the traumatised aunt and child returned home. The complaint was ‘referred to the PJ in Portimão’ and the parents were told agents would be in touch either that same day, or the following.

But it wasn’t to be. Until the Resident began investigating over a month later, no police had been in touch at all, said the family.

Three days after the incident, the parents made contact with the PJ to “see if there was any news on the case/investigation” and to explain that they had a holiday planned.

They were told “there was no problem because even being away, agents had our telephone numbers to contact if needed”.

As the couple stresses, there is “no doubt that this was a kidnap attempt”.

CCTV footage taken from the chemists shows the woman purposefully brushing against the aunt as the younger woman stood distracted for a few seconds. As she nudged the woman away, she put her hand out to the child.

The child didn’t look up. She clearly thought her aunt had decided to leave the packed chemists which had suddenly become ‘even more busy’ due to the arrival of a group of people who stayed by the doorway.

The child’s parents now think the people in the doorway may have been part of the abduction, “for that is exactly what this was”, the mother stressed.

“Since this happened, we have talked to friends and neighbours, and we have heard that things like this have taken place in Lagos, Portimão, Tavira, Quarteira, even Silves Medieval Festival … Yet we never hear of anything like this in the press. Why?

“It is not enough to say: ‘nothing happened’. Yes, our daughter is safe, but our lives will never be the same again. We are scared to go out. Scared to let her play while we have a coffee on an esplanade. We watch her all the time…”

The father has already been to the town hall and discussed the lack of police presence on the streets. Happily, that appears about to change as the council is due to hire its own municipal force.

But the ‘elephant in the room’ is the memory of the world’s most-reported child disappearance just kilometres down the coast in Praia da Luz over a decade ago.

Could the lack of publicity about this latest kidnap attempt – and possibly the others this family has heard about – be connected to an unwillingness by authorities to attract any new negative publicity of a popular tourist destination?

“We wonder this all the time,” say the parents. “We know the police are very busy. We know they could well be investigating behind the scenes. But we cannot understand why no-one has come to see us, even to get a better idea of what the woman looks like.”

Aside from the CCTV evidence held by police, both the child and the aunt were able to give quite a clear picture of the woman: she is in her late 40s-early 50s, stocky, “very pale” with slightly ginger dyed hair.

She was wearing a colourful printed dress, blending in easily with the summer crowds.

Shortly after the incident, the parents sent out a block email to all their friends with children and parents at their daughter’s school.

In a few short paragraphs, the father described what happened, and described the abductor. He concluded with: “I think it’s best to inform everyone, as we live here in Lagos and we want to live in a safe town. The more people who know, the more alert we can all be.”

Simple advice which, one could argue, should have come from the authorities.

“SHE FEELS IT IS HER FAULT”
As for the child, her mother says the little girl is still full of questions. “She asks me things, bit by bit. She is very disturbed. One of the things she asked me recently was, “I don’t understand how babies can become bad people…”

The child is about to start school for another year. With luck, the shock of what happened on a hot August day will start to fade, but for now “she thinks it was her fault”, says her mother.

As for the parents, neither has managed to work through the experience.

“I still don’t sleep properly,” said the father. “The thought of what could have happened haunts us both. We might sleep better if we knew police were on the trail of these people…”

“A WOMAN YOU COULD TRUST”
In the anxiety of the moment when the aunt recovered the child, the woman who took her ‘got away’.

“My sister lost sight of her,” the mother explains. “It was all very emotional.

“Afterwards, as she described what had happened to us, she told us the woman looked like ‘a woman you could trust’.

“In a way she was not unlike my sister in appearance, just older…”

SINCE WRITING THIS STORY, PJ police have finally been in touch with the aunt who has returned home from the Algarve to her life in Lisbon. They told her agents would be in touch 'tomorrow' to come and hear her account. Tomorrow came and went. The aunt has to date received no visit.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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