• Primark says CCTV shows no evidence of alleged incident
• Free to Feed demands to view footage and calls for witnesses
• Primark Facebook page inundated with abuse and accusations
A row over allegations that a store security guard tore a nursing baby from its mother’s breast has escalated after strong denials from the outlet in question.
Discount clothing store Primark launched an urgent investigation after mum Caroline Starmer alleged an employee physically removed her baby as she tried to feed.
Starmer had approached pro-breastfeeding site Free to Feed to recount her “horrific experience” at the Leicester store.
The site posted an account of her claims, with one admin commenting: “This woman deserves more than a public apology! I actually feel sick with rage.”
The same admin later cautioned: “Generally we like to give people a chance to respond and rectify the situation appropriately before piling in and protesting.”
But after reviewing CCTV, Primark stated there was no evidence of Starmer’s allegations.
A spokesman for the retail giant told Huffington Post UK: “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. [Starmer later told another media outlet the security guard in question was Asian and around 5ft 10ins tall.]
“We have therefore concluded that the customer allegation is not supported by the available evidence to date. The company would obviously be happy to work with any police investigation into this incident, should this be needed.”
A spokesman for Leicester Police said: "We have spoken to the woman involved and arrangements have been made to take further statements in relation to the allegations."
Despite this, the Primark Facebook page is under fire from users demanding answers over the incident.
“When are you going to sack this kidnapper?” asked Miranda Breen, while Holly Vincent asked: “I’d like to visit my local Primark store tomorrow – will my baby be safe? I do breastfeed and in public too! You know, as is my legal right? The lady in H&M got me a chair last time…”
While the majority of comments are attacking the store, with many accusing it of sanctioning kidnapping and child abduction [Primark has responded to each one with a link to its official statement], one user commented: “Primark’s PR people are probably trying to find the nicest way to tell you that you have been dupped. The breastfeeding story was fabricated. So much outrage without a shred of evidence. I worry for people’s health, I really do.”
Free to Feed for its part has demanded permission to view the CCTV footage and has made a public call for witnesses to come forward.
It has also posted a link to Primark’s official statement, praising the store for taking “action so quickly”.
Some commenters on the Free to Feed page have remarked on the anger expressed over the matter.
Catherine Black wrote: “So from being ready to hang the security guard (comments I read yesterday included gouge eyes, rip ears, break legs) the next villain will be the accuser. Consider that if she has lied then she's not well, perhaps delusional, or depressed or confused.
“Let's be a little kinder. Whatever version of the story you believe nobody will gain anything here by violence or conviction. I hope she's not feeling scared and alone waiting for the Internet to turn and destroy her.”
Steph Barden added: “I think you should also ask your followers to remove their reviews of Primark. At least for now - if this lady is proved right then go for it but you have started a hate campaign against a business and need to help stop it even if you genuinely thought you was helping.”
The page admin has replied: "I haven't seen the reviews and we certainly would not condone leaving a lot of negative reviews on a company's page. I will investigate this further tomorrow."
The Equality Act 2010 states: A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age.
"A business may ask a breastfeeding woman to leave their premises if the reason for this request is not due to her breastfeeding. However, if the woman later claims that discrimination occurred because she was breastfeeding, the business will have to prove that there was in fact no discrimination."
It adds: "DO train all your employees, especially those who deal with the public, to be aware of the protection from discrimination given to breastfeeding mothers under the Equality Act 2010."