The moment a “child snatcher” was caught carrying off a 2-year-old girl from a park was captured on video. A 44-year-old man was leading the toddler away, but he wouldn’t get far before being confronted.
A 27-year-old woman, whose name was changed to Heike S to protect her identity, was at a park at about 7:30 pm on a Sunday evening when she noticed a man speaking to a little girl near the entrance. Something didn’t quite sit right with Heike S, so she decided to watch the pair closely. According to Heike S, “the girl and the man didn’t match.” Concerned, she kept an eye on them, and it’s a good thing she did.
The 44-year-old man, who has not been named, tried to snatch the child from Boxhagener Platz in Berlin, Germany. While the child’s mother was distracted in a conversation, he took the 2-year-old girl by the hand and began running away. Although the 2-year-old didn’t try to resist as he led her away from the park and attempted to carry her off, Heike S was convinced the man wasn’t her father.
Heike S was right, but luckily, the child snatcher didn’t get far. Seeing the man attempting to run off with the little girl prompted the 27-year-old mother to follow the pair, despite having her own two-year-old daughter with her. However, the suspect quickly realized he was being followed. “He had noticed by now that I was following him,” Heike S recalled.
When the suspect began to get away from her, Heike S enlisted the help of a local kiosk owner, only identified as Zoran Z. “I was lucky he was there,” Heike S said, speaking of the 44-year-old shop owner, who joined in the pursuit and sprinted after the man. Zoran Z managed to catch up with the suspected kidnapper and confronted him on camera as another witness filmed the incident with their cellphone.
According to Daily Mail, Zoran Z asked the man whether the little girl belonged to him, and after a brief pause, he admitted she was not his and confessed to taking the child. “No,” he said, holding the child firmly on his shoulders. “I love children. I can’t understand how mothers and fathers leave their children at home with some caregivers,” he continued, according to Zoran Z, who then forced him to return the little girl.
With the little girl still on the man’s shoulders, Zoran Z escorted him back to the play area, where the child’s distraught mother was frantically searching for her. He’s heard in footage saying, “Is the mom here in the park? All right, that’s where we’re going, right?” Asking the toddler to point out her mom, he continued, “We’re going to mom, right? You sit up there. You have to look where she is. You have the best view. OK?”
In the troubling video footage of the ordeal, the suspect is heard calmly telling Zoran Z, “I think children are simply the most important thing. Children are our future, aren’t they?” according to a translation by The Sun. Eventually, the mother and daughter were reunited, and police arrived to arrest the man, who refused a breathalyzer but a blood sample later confirmed that he was drunk.
“The mother was panicked,” the shop owner told local media, according to the New York Post. “The guy then put the child in her arms. She was probably in such a state of shock that she spoke to him normally.”
The unnamed would-be kidnapper was subsequently arrested for being drunk, but he was released with the police saying they had no grounds to hold him. According to authorities, the “conditions for issuing an arrest warrant were not met.” The case was, however, passed to a specialist child crimes unit to investigate on suspicion of attempted abduction.
The suspect was reportedly known to officers and has a mental disorder but is not a known pedophile or sex offender. Trying to reassure worried parents on Twitter, the police said, “So far there is no evidence of a sexual motivation or of malicious intent. Visiting a playground in Berlin is no more dangerous than usual.”
Their reassurance was of little comfort to a local mother, who placed warning signs outside the playground. Heike S also worries about running into the man again. “I imagined what would have happened if that had been my child,” she said. “Now, I also know that the man is back, that he could appear in front of us again at any time, that he might recognize me and my daughter,” she added, admitting, “That scares me.”
Indeed, this should scare us all. Had it not been for one mother’s instinct, her watchful eye, and two good Samaritans, determined to stop a potential predator, this story could have had a much different ending. Thankfully, while one mother was distracted, another was watching out for her little girl, and two heroes stepped in and followed their gut rather than looking the other way. Let this be a lesson to us all to not only pay better attention to our own surroundings but to also watch out for the innocent among us.