AN IRISH MOTHER has spoken of the terror she experienced when her three-year-old daughter went missing for ten minutes while in a Northern Irish supermarket.
The incident occurred in Nutts Corner market on Sunday afternoon.
Poppy-Leigh Gilmore was with her mum Sarah-Jane, 26, and her dad Jake Carson when she was snatched and lead by the arm out of the store by "the wrong man".
After realising their daughter was no longer beside them, Poppy-Leigh's parents into a panic, and experienced what Sarah-Jane described as "the longest 10 minutes of my life."
"She was right beside us, holding her toy in one hand and holding on to her little brother’s pram with the other. She’s never been a child to run off on us," Sarah-Jane told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It was around 2.50pm and Poppy-Leigh was right there beside us.
"We just turned to speak to the stall holder and turned back to her and she wasn’t there.
"When we looked up and down the line of stalls she was nowhere to be seen. It was very frighting. The row was empty and panic set in."
They two then dashed around the shop frantically searching for their daughter.
A number of fellow shoppers also joined in the search, and they managed to organise an announcement over the tannoy system too.
"I know tears were streaming down my face as we tried to cover as much of the market as we could as quickly as we could.
"I remember asking a man who was handing out Bible scriptures if he had seen her and he said he had. That gave me hope.
"Another woman told me she had passed her, but she was with her daddy.
"I told her that wasn’t her daddy, but I’m so thankful today to all of them for noticing and helping to find her before it was too late.
"There were a lot of people standing around bollards near the car park and instead of stopping to ask them I ran around them to continue looking."
Thankfully, moments later Poppy-Leigh was found hiding between a couple of cars in the car park "crying her heart out," before telling her mother who had taken her.
"I ran to her ... and asked her what happened and she said ‘the wrong man grabbed me’.
"The distance between where she went missing and where she ended up isn’t what a child of her age could cover on her own in such a short space of time.
"I called Jake to let him know I’d found her and after talking to the stall holders decided it was best to inform the police. I didn’t want to think someone else might have to go through what we had."
According to Sarah-Jane, police later determined that her daughter was too young to have made something like that up, and that there were red marks on her arm from where she'd been grabbed.
"She was also able to tell them he was a young man, like her daddy, with dark hair and wearing a hoodie."
The distraught mum went on to say that he daughter was up all night "checking we were still there," while she ran and hid in the bathroom when the postman came the next morning.
"We’ve been in shock ever since, just wondering ‘what if’ all the time."