A woman who claimed that a security guard snatched her baby from her as she was breastfeeding in a shop will appear in court charged with intent to pervert the course of public justice. Store bosses said an investigation revealed no evidence that the incident had occurred
Caroline Starmer, 28, claimed that the incident took place at a Primark store in Leicester. She initially posted her allegations on a “Free to Feed” Facebook page, accusing a man whom she described as a “guard” of approaching her in Primark at Humberstone Gate, Leicester on the 13th July.
According to Mrs Starmer, he ordered her to leave the shop as she breastfed her nine-and-a-half-month-old daughter Paige in the children’s clothes section. She claimed that, when she refused, the man snatched baby Paige away and marched off, telling her “If you want your baby back, follow me.”
The allegations were later repeated by Mrs Starmer to a news agency, subsequently appearing in a number of newspapers and on news sites. She was reported as saying:
“I was completely shocked, one minute I was feeding Paige in a discreet area of the store and suddenly I was being challenged by a security guard and he was walking off with my baby.
“I was stunned, I didn’t know what to do, this stranger had hold of my daughter and was walking off with her screaming while I had my breast exposed and my other daughter in the pushchair.
“When I regained my senses I sprinted after him and stood in front of him. I grabbed Paige off him and he just sneered at me and walked off.”
However, a spokesman for Primark has countered: “The CCTV footage, reviewed by store management, shows the customer in the Leicester store quite clearly during the time in question. We can see no evidence that she was approached by anyone during this period.
“We have spoken to the security guards on duty. They categorically deny behaving in the way alleged. Furthermore the individuals do not fit the description given by the customer.”
The spokesman said that they took the allegation “very seriously indeed”, but following the investigation, had “concluded that the customer allegation is not supported by the available evidence to date.”
Primark also say that breastfeeding is not prohibited in their stores.
Police have now confirmed that Mrs Starmer will appear at Leicestershire Magistrates Court on August 24. A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: “A 28-year-old woman has been summoned to appear at court charged with intent to pervert the course of public justice.
“It follows an allegation made in which a woman claimed that while in a store in Humberstone Gate, Leicester, on Monday 13 July, she was assaulted by a security guard.”
Commenting on the decision to charge Mrs Starmer, a spokesman for Primark said: “Primark notes the announcement made today by Leicestershire Police that Caroline Starmer has been summoned to appear at court charged with perverting the course of public justice.
“The charges are laid in connection with an alleged incident at Primark’s Leicester store on 13 July 2015. Mrs Starmer alleged to police and the press that she was breastfeeding her child in our store when a security guard told her she must cease and forcibly removed the child from her.
“Primark has cooperated fully with police investigators, and will not be commenting further on the ongoing proceedings against Mrs Starmer.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity however to confirm that Primark will continue to work hard to ensure that all of our customers have a comfortable and enjoyable experience in our stores.
“This of course includes breastfeeding mothers, who remain welcome, as ever, at Primark.”
The BBC has reported that police are warning people not to post anything online that may prejudice the outcome of the trial. A statement reads: “Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendant has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”