A shopkeeper has slammed locals in Southend who claimed to have “smashed a paedophile ring” by confiscating a tourist’s camera.
Police were called to the incident at the town’s Marine Parade after three men were set upon by locals – only to find pictures of the seafront on their cameras.
A Facebook post, which had been shared more 13,000 times, from a local woman said the men had “been taking pictures of young children along Southend Seafront.”
Martin Richardson, a trader at the Happidrome arcade, criticised the “stupid scaremongering” of the girl who confronted the innocent tourists.
Mr Richardson told the Southend Echo: “It’s detrimental to the seafront because people have now got it in their heads there are paedophiles lurking around the seafront when these tourists, who were all teachers, were only taking pictures of the fountains so they could suggest something similar back home.”
“But some stupid girl decided she’d ‘smashed a paedophile ring’ on Southend seafront and it’s been shared about 13,000 times on Facebook.
“I had three people come into my shop asking about it but these poor people were just unaware of the English ‘etiquette’ that if you take pictures of children you’re suddenly a paedophile – as though paedophiles come down to the seafront in plain sight wearing cameras with big lenses on.
“We are a tourist destination – we openly welcome people to come here and visit and look at the unique features we have here. We don’t need people scaring them off with silly things like that.”
The original Facebook post said the three men were “taking pictures of young children along southend seafront.”
She said she assisted another woman in watching her children “while she confronted them and then proceeded to luckily get hold of his phone while calling the police.”
An Essex police spokesman said: “Police attended Marine Parade shortly before 4pm on Friday, April 8, following reports that three men had been detained by members of the public who were concerned about photographs being taken.
“The photographs were reviewed by officers who found no offences had been committed. The photos were of the general seafront area.”