Mr Beet came back from the in laws the other day with a story about how a friend of a friend of his parents had nearly had their child abducted in a supermarket. Apparently the child was found in the toilets with two Eastern European women who were cutting her hair to make her look like a boy.
I’d already read about this story here, but even if I had not known that it was an urban myth, I would like to think that I would have been pretty sceptical about it. The fact that Mr Beet started “I know you, you won’t believe this but…” indicates that I probably would have been.
1. If I wanted to abduct a child from a supermarket, I’d look for one that had been separated from its parents then simply approach it and take it outside on the pretext of looking for its mummy and daddy. I wouldn’t mess around wasting time trying to cut its hair while the child’s absence was noticed and the alarm raised. I’d simply walk out and if challenged say I had seen a police office outside earlier so was taking child to them or some similar story. If you’re a woman, they’d probably just take your word for it and even if they suspect you how are they going to prove it?
2. If I wanted to change its appearance to avoid being spotted on CCTV, I’d put a different hat or coat on it. Quicker, easier to explain to child and at a pinch possible to explain if you’re caught – I saw this hat lying on floor near child, assumed it was hers etc. Cutting hair is just going to result in a screaming child, which will just draw attention and it is impossible to explain if caught.
3. If the story was real, then why hasn’t it been in the news? A story like this is a tabloid dream – good bit of scaremongering to be done with it – the media would be all over it. OK some stories don’t make the news because of reporting restrictions, but hard to see what the issue would be in a case like this, especially weighed against the public interest if there’s a gang of abductors / amateur hairdressers prowling the frozen food aisles.
4. If you get told a story that happened to a friend of a friend, then immediately your bullshit detector should be buzzing.
The three things about this story that disturb me are:-
1. How lots people accept these kinds of stories without considering whether they are even plausible.
2. How a juicy bit of racism (i.e. the would-be abductors being Eastern European) probably helped this story to spread.
3. How it made me seriously consider the logistics of child abduction, which is something I’d not previously given much thought to, but which I now think I would be rather good at. These fictional Eastern Europeans are amateurs.