Woman accused of abducting child at shopping centre

A woman has been remanded into custody accused of abducting a one-year-old boy at a west Belfast shopping centre.

Noeleen Creen, 38, carried the boy from a store inside the Park Centre before his mother managed to snatch him back, the city’s magistrates court was told.

Ms Creen, of Bunbeg Park in Belfast, was arrested after the incident led to a temporary lockdown of the centre on Monday afternoon.

She was refused bail on a charge of child abduction.

An investigating detective said Ms Creen allegedly picked up the infant and tried to leave one of the stores inside the Park Centre.

“The defendant was stopped about five to 10 metres away by the child’s mother, who snatched her child away,” he told the court.

Security staff were alerted and spotted Ms Creen in a nearby seating area within the centre.

Based on CCTV footage, police also said that prior to the alleged abduction she approached and kissed the forehead of another child accompanied by its parents.

That family left the shopping centre before the alert was raised.

Bottle of vodka

In interviews following her arrest the accused provided a “disjointed” account without a clear recollection of the incident, the court heard.

She claimed to have drunk half a bottle of vodka the previous night, visited a friend in hospital and then went to the Park Centre.

Asked to explain her actions, Ms Creen said: “Maybe the child was upset, I was comforting him.”

She denied trying to leave the centre with the infant.

Opposing bail, the detective claimed: “There is a serious risk to the public, this was a busy shopping centre where there are young parents and children around.”

A defence solicitor described it as a “very, very strange incident” all captured on 90 seconds of CCTV footage.

He said the initial kiss on the forehead of the other child had been an “act of friendship” and no complaint had been made by that family.

Dealing with the alleged abduction, the solicitor said his client was carrying the child towards the seating area, not towards the exit.

“She wasn’t attempting to leave the scene,” he said, adding that she was "adamant that she wouldn’t harm children".

The lawyer told the court Ms Creen is a mother of four and self-described alcoholic.

Bail was denied due to the risk of re-offending.

Remanding Ms Creen in custody until 18 June, a judge ordered that a mental health assessment should be carried out before she makes any future application for release.