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  #1  
Old 06-20-2012, 02:52 AM
lucidacious lucidacious is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
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Unhappy Safety in Paris - attempted child abduction

Below is an email I have sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Australia;

I was due to travel to several cities in Europe over a two month period with my three children aged 8 (girl), 6 (boy) and 3 (boy). We arrived in Paris at the Charles De Gaulle airport around noon on the 17th of June 2012. When we finally organised train tickets it was close to 3 PM. We took the train (line B) into the city. On the train we witnessed the theft of a tourist's backpack which they had placed on the train seat next to them. I attempted to retrieve the backpack but was threatened. With my children's safety as my first concern, I decided to say nothing until the man had alighted. The perpetrator was of African heritage in appearance. The victim was stopped by the local passengers from pushing the emergency alert on the train.

Soon after, at one of the city centre train stations, Chatelet Les Halles, we alighted the train. We passed through the turn-styles. I was carrying a 20kg backpack on my back, a 6 kg backpack on my front and was pushing a stroller with my 3 year old buckled in and asleep. My 8 year old had a daypack on her back and my 6 year old's daypack was on the stroller. There are very few lifts in the train station - where there are lifts they are not in working order. It may not be wise to take a lift in any case.

We alighted the final escalators for Rue de Rivoli. My older children alighted several steps before me. I had my back to them, facing the bottom of the escalators balancing the stroller on its two back wheels. No one else was on the escalator. As we were 3/4 of the way up, a man of African appearance alighted the escalator at the bottom and increased his pace upwards. He pushed passed me, pushed my daughter out of the way and grabbed my six year old son.

We all started screaming. Luckily, we were close to the top of the escalators. As quickly as possible, I dragged the stroller up and as soon as it was safely at the top of the escalator, I launched myself at the man who had my son. I proceeded to fight him, and scream for help. Even as I was biting him, he did not release my son until a multitude of people surrounded us. Part of the way through the struggle, I realised that this could be a set up and that these individuals often operate in gangs. I realised that it was possible that others could take my children while I was fighting this man. Luckily on this occasion this was not the case.

We were escorted by a French lady up some stairs and onto the street. She pointed us in the direction of the apartment we had booked, but I felt it important to stay on a main street and make contact with Police. We found a police post on Rue Du Bernard. While the police were lovely, they were not particularly helpful. There were about eight officers at a post sitting in a van. I explained what had happened. I asked if this was a common occurrence and they replied it was the same as any big city. I also asked if they would view the video footage from the train station but they said it would be up to the head of police of that particular area. No details were taken, no reports made and no questions asked. I asked if one of them could please come with us in a taxi to the airport as we were very frightened and wanted to return to Australia but was told the taxis are safe and they could not accompany us.

Luckily the manager of the apartment in which we were due to stay telephoned me and I relayed the events. He told me to stay with the police and he would send someone to us. The gentleman who met us at the police post accompanied us back to the Charles De Gaulle Airport where we boarded a flight and immediately returned to Perth, Western Australia.

It should be noted, as I speak some French, all conversations were in French up until the arrival of the apartment manager (who spoke fluent English). It should also be noted that I am a very seasoned traveler and I have spent many years living and traveling abroad.
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  #2  
Old 06-25-2012, 01:44 AM
HostColleen's Avatar
HostColleen HostColleen is offline
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Hello lucidacious,

I am so sorry to hear about what happened upon your arrival into Paris and that you did not get to stay and see the city.

I have taken the very route you did into the city but it IS a very difficult thing to do, as you mentioned, riding the RER line B, then transfer to the Metro and exit at Chatelet - I had to do that my first time in Paris but I was alone. The trains were packed and I think unfortunately, this is when things tend to happen because things don't get noticed in large crowds and getaways can be fast and easy. That someone actually TOOK your child is terrifying, I can't imagine what was going through your mind except saving him and you did, thank goodness.

There's all sorts of way to "armchair" quarterback this mishap but that does you no good now. I wish you could have enjoyed your extended holiday. Indeed, in big cities, including Paris and all around the world, these things do happen and there simply aren't enough resources for the police to investigate. The fact that this was an attempt at a child abduction makes me wonder why the police were not more concerned in this instance except, and maybe they did not explain this to you, this has happened before and it is more an attempt to take the backpack than it was your child, although, what anyone could consider taking from a child's backpack worth taking...we are living in strange times. Europe is in crisis and although maybe France isn't yet in the news except for the recent elections, the rest of Europe is struggling and France has been struggling with immigration problems for years. My home city is no different.

Poor economic conditions, big city crime - tourists are targeted - is a sad reality. I have been to Australia and I know things are quite different there, especially out west in Perth. I know that Sydney and other eastern cities have crime, but probably NOTHING on the scale of many other cities around the world.

I've seen crimes committed against tourists on the metro; it's sad but these criminals are "pros" and almost before anyone realizes anything has happened to them and it is quite unsettling just to see happen, let alone be victimized.

We like to think our holidays are going to be "idyllic" and often they are but sometimes bad things happen; the severity of incidents can vary and maybe not be as extreme as what you went through or sometimes, can be even worse. For a neighbor or mine, it was as worse as it could ever get.

You did what you felt you had to do by leaving but I hope sometime in the future, you'll get another chance to try and do that trip - it was a big undertaking on your part, going with your three young children with you. It's something many wouldn't even try. I am so sorry you had such an awful experience but am glad you are all OK.

Let us know if you get any reply from your letter. Consulates can often be helpful when abroad in a city like Paris, but there are limits to what they can do; I don't know if they could have done more to help but maybe....writing the letter at least helps them to know crime statistics and critical areas of concern that need better monitoring/manpower so you did the right thing and hopefully writing was a bit cathartic.

Don't give up on travel....maybe wait a while but give it another go. We help many families plan their trips and share advise in advance about what to be on the lookout for, options etc. I'm hoping someday you will all have a lovely European holiday. Meanwhile, take care - feel better and when you're up to it, maybe come back here and tell us about all the wonderful things about Perth......it's on my list for when I get back to Oz, and I'm not the only one who's thinking about Perth either

Feel better.
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  #3  
Old 06-25-2012, 11:15 AM
lucidacious lucidacious is offline
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Thank you Colleen. It's a pity we are so far away from so many here in Oz but I guess that's what makes a place like this so interesting.
Unfortunately, my biggest problem now (which is really no problem at all when you manage to bring all your children home safely) is not having a police report. The Australian Embassy in Paris is of no help and not interested and I have had no response from our Department of Foreign Affairs either (however they have a far worse and much sadder case to deal with currently). The French fellow from the apartment I was due to stay in has contacted the police and they have refused to supply a report. One interesting thing I have since learnt about the location where our incident took place is that Le Marais is not your typical family friendly location. However, it is very difficult to find this in any travel guide, blog, etc. Please, if you have children opt for a very different area - maybe St Germain instead of Le Marais.
I think I was perhaps a little over-confident with heading across Europe on my own with three little ones. I spent a month in London with the three children on my own (however my husband was with us in the apartment at night) last year. We had the most fabulous time and people were so friendly and helpful everywhere we went. Not once was I left to drag the stroller up steps by myself - it was as if there was a gentleman on every street corner. Of course we may have just been very lucky - some of my English friends here look at me as if I've grown another head and say, "Are you sure you were in London?!" The other thing I loved about London (which is different to Paris) is that they allow even the youngest child to attempt to use the audio tours - there is no minimum age for use of audio - it is up to the parents.
Anyway, I still need to get to Palermo, Sicily by the end of July for a wedding and then I had five days booked in Dubai on the way back but I'm just not sure about doing it all on my own again with the three kids - but they're in the bridal party! I have done the exact same trip previously, but from the eyes I seeing the world through now, things are looking a little different....
Cheerio
Lucidacious
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