Karl Pollard, 46 and his daughter, Stephanie, 14, from Wales, had travelled for four hours to visit his mother, who was due to start cancer treatment. Pollard, a carer for his wife Kim, 45, who has multiple sclerosis, booked a double bedroom after being told it was the only availability. Ten minutes after they checked in, a police officer knocked on their hotel room door.
Mr Pollard told the Daily Star, “A policewoman was standing there. I thought something had happened to my mum or my wife. But she said, ‘We’ve had a call from Travelodge, they believe you are a paedophile grooming underage girls’.”
“I explained to her that I was Stephanie’s dad. The officer had to ask her loads of questions to prove it.”
It was an upsetting experience for the father and daughter, who were separated and then interrogated.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was an emotional trip already but it was made so much worse. One minute I was brushing my teeth, the next I was being told I was a paedophile.”
The police quickly ascertained that there was no illegal activity. But Pollard explained that the shock of the experience has left Stephanie “distraught”.
“My daughter was in tears. She was so scared — and thought I was going to get taken away,” he said.
Travelodge has defended their actions saying their staff had adhered to company policy.
A spokesperson for Travelodge told LADbible: “Our national guidelines are supported by the NSPCC, and have also been approved by the National Working Group on child sexual exploitation.”
“Staff at the Travelodge did the right thing by reporting what they believed to be suspicious activity to officers, although thankfully there was nothing untoward and it turned out to be a misunderstanding.”
Father and daughter Craig and Millie Darwell had a similar experience in Surrey, in March 2017, when the father was also questioned about a stay with his daughter.
Such incidents are reflective of a society that is increasingly becoming aware of the existence of sexual abuse and sex-trafficking, and empowered to do something about it.
Earlier this week, two teenaged girls aged 17 and 15 presented themselves at Sacramento International Airport in California with no identification. They were travelling alone, with only carry-on luggage, but had two first-class tickets booked by another person using a fraudulent credit card. The tickets were one-way and multi-leg, further raising red flags.
American Airlines staff, noting the girls' anxiety, contacted local law enforcement and prohibited the girls to board. Their suspicions were right - Deputy Todd Sanderson spoke to the girls, who informed him that their trip was co-ordinated by “Drey,” whom they had met on Instagram previously.
Drey offered them $US2000 ($2530) to fly to New York for the weekend, where he told them they would model and feature in music videos. The interference by the airline saved the girls from further exploitation and an unknown fate.
While the incident with the Pollards and the Darwells did not amount to a dangerous situation for those girls, at least the message is being made clear that suspicions of sex-trafficking or illegal activity involving minors will be reported by the public, and investigated, because the safety of all children is a priority.