Irish, British holidaymakers moved after gang dressed as waiters attempt child abduction
Authorities in Cyprus have denied there was a child abduction attempt
Authorities in Cyprus have denied there was a child abduction attempt at a hotel popular with British holidaymakers.
An investigation was launched following an incident on June 16 at the Anastasia Beach complex in Protaras.
Dundee holidaymaker Greg Letford, 28, told the Daily Record newspaper that a couple had led two young children towards a waiting car and another person had a third child "ready to go".
However local police said a 19-year-old man had been questioned and released after tourists reported seeing a man filming young children on his mobile phone.
Nothing untoward was found on his phone or during a search of his home, the force said, and officers returned to the hotel to speak to tourists who were concerned that the man was part of a child abduction gang.
Police said they did not find any evidence of this and that the travel company and the UK High Commission office in Cyprus "had expressed their full satisfaction" with their handling of the incident.
The Foreign Office confirmed it had provided assistance to a British family following a "concerning incident", while tour operator Thomas Cook said the matter was being taken "incredibly seriously".
Police deputy spokeswoman Nikoletta Tyrimou told the Cyprus Mail: "We questioned the suspect, went through his phone and also searched his home.
"Nothing we found suggests that he is part of a child-abducting gang or that he was stalking children.
"He has since been released while police take statements from all those present at the scene."
Hotel operator Tsokkos said the child abduction claims were "completely unjustifiable".
The Anastasia Beach complex, on the eastern tip of Cyprus, is described on the Thomas Cook website as being a "perfect family choice".
A spokeswoman said: "The safety and welfare of our customers is always our first priority and, upon hearing about the incident, we immediately deployed our experienced resort team to the property to provide those customers in residence with individual support.
"Customers who did not wish to stay at the property were immediately moved to alternative hotels of a similar or higher standard.
"While incidents of this nature are extremely rare, we would like to reassure all customers that this is being taken incredibly seriously and we are continuing to work closely with the local authorities and the hotel as the investigation continues.
"Any customers with concerns about future holidays at this hotel are asked to contact us directly so that we can deal with them personally and directly."
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "Our consular officers provided advice and support to the family involved following this concerning incident. This is now a matter for the local police who are investigating."
Tsokkos said in a statement: "According to the police investigation, the claims of child abduction are completely unjustifiable and invalid as nothing was found to suggest that the person involved intended to carry out such an act.
"The 19-year-old man involved is not an employee of the hotel and is not a known person to either the management or staff.
"The safety and welfare of our guests is always our first priority and upon becoming aware of the incident, we immediately increased the security personnel at the hotel as well as deployed more management members throughout the property to offer all in-house guests assistance and any other support needed."
Thomas Cook said it had assisted 16 customer bookings who requested a move to another hotel and two families who travelled back to the UK early.
The spokeswoman said: "Although there are conflicting reports as to what exactly occurred at the property, we would like to reassure all customers that we take all allegations incredibly seriously and we are continuing to work closely with our customers in resort and the local authorities."
The tour operator said it continues to offer holidays to the Anastasia Beach and Cyprus, "where customers are continuing to enjoy their holidays with us".
According to the Daily Record, three youngsters were being lured into cars when the child-snatchers were caught.
The incident occurred at the Anastasia Beach Complex, near Protaras, in Cyprus.
A holidaymaker at the resort, who was with a wedding party from Dundee, said: "We had seen these people around the hotel all week. They’d been in the pool and interacting with some of the children.
"Some of them were wearing staff outfits so they could blend in more easily. It was really scary."
The Scottish father said some of the gang, who employees at the resort said were allegedly Romanians, were dressed as waiters.
“This Romanian couple were leading the two young children towards a waiting car, another person had a third child up against a wall ready to go, too.
“Someone spotted what they were up to and stopped them. If he hadn’t been there those kids would have gone.
“One of the men got away and we heard the getaway car crashed a short distance away too.
“When the police turned up, they took the man and woman into an office in the hotel and a crowd built up in the foyer – there must have been about 60 or 70 really angry people. It was chaos.
“The police got them into a van through a window for their protection. One of the hotel staff later told us they were Romanian and that one of them used to work at the hotel.”
All of the children involved were under tens years old.
The father said they had given statements to police after the suspects were taken into custody.
It is understood that a gang of at least 10 men and women had been scoping out the plush hotel for the last week, the Daily Record said.
They had been seen in the area taking pictures of children and trying to blend in with employees by wearing uniforms.
Dozens of British and Irish holidaymakers have been transferred from the hotel amid fears for children’s safety.
Holidaymakers, who were mainly from Scotland and Ireland, were offered a new hotel in nearby Paphos by Thomas Cook, the tour operator.
The man speaking to the publication praised the "speedy and professional" way Thomas Cook’s reps handled the difficult situation and tried to calm fears.
They arranged return flights to the UK for those families directly affected by the attempted abductions and agreed to move others who didn’t feel safe, he said.
A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said the company were taking the incident extremely seriously.
She said: “Thomas Cook have requested an increased and immediate security presence at the hotel.
“The safety and welfare of our customers is always our first priority and, upon hearing about the incident, we immediately deployed our experienced resort team to the property to provide those customers in residence with individual support.
“Customers who did not wish to stay at the property were moved to alternative hotels of a similar or higher standard.