Police in Britain made “a great mistake” handing over an 18-month-old girl to a mystery woman who has since disappeared with the child, the toddler’s grandmother said today.
Careworker Agatha Owsuah, 54, of Peckham, south London, said the girl’s mother, who was in custody at the time in Walworth police station, should have been asked to confirm the woman’s identity before Audrey Nyanor was handed over.
She said: “All the time in this country they check your identity.
“They ask for my ID when I take money from the bank, they ask for ID before you can get a job.
They should have asked for ID before handing over a human being to someone.”
The child went missing after officers went to an address in De Laune Street, Walworth, at around 8am on Thursday to make inquiries about a man wanted for failing to appear at court.
He was not in but police arrested the girl’s 36-year-old mother, Cynthia Boakye, in connection with alleged immigration offences and took the pair to Walworth police station.
Mrs Owsuah said an officer asked her daughter who they could call to look after the baby and initially contacted Mrs Boakye’s step-father.
He visited the station but said he could not take the child because he was working and officers were then given the number of another relative who agreed to come and collect Audrey.
Mrs Owsuah said: “Cynthia gave them a relative’s number but the officer would not let her call and went outside the room to make the phone call.”
Mrs Owsuah thinks someone overheard that phonecall and then came back to the police station at around 10:30am pretending to be the relative and was given Audrey.
She said the woman who took Audrey gave a different address to the one the relative gave over the phone.
A police spokesman said: “The details she gave to police corresponded with the name of the woman Audrey’s mother had told police would pick up her daughter, and as a result she left the police station with the child at approximately 10.40am.
“Subsequently it became apparent the woman was not the same person who had been organised to pick up the child.
“As a result a police investigation began to find Audrey, and to identify and trace the woman who took her.
“Whilst there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that Audrey has come to any harm we are very concerned that she remains missing and we are making every effort to ensure she is safely returned.”
Scotland Yard released CCTV footage of the woman at the police station and at Elephant and Castle underground station, where she was pictured carrying Audrey.
She is described as black, believed to be of Ghanaian heritage, of medium build with short black hair.
She was wearing a bright red coat and dark knee-length boots.
Audrey’s mother was later released on bail. Five other people arrested in connection with the investigation have also been bailed, according to the Met.