Northern Ireland

Woman accused of abducting one-year-old at Park Centre in west Belfast remanded into custody

Court hears Noeleen Creen carried the infant from a store inside the retail unit before his mother managed to snatch him back

A has been Woman charged with child abduction incident at   The Park Centre shopping centre in west Belfast.
The Park Centre shopping centre in west Belfast. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

A woman was remanded into custody on Tuesday accused of abducting a one-year-old child at a busy west Belfast shopping mall.

Noeleen Creen (38) carried the infant from a store inside the Park Centre before his mother managed to snatch him back, the city’s Magistrates Court heard.

Creen, of Bunbeg Park in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, was arrested after the incident led to a temporary lockdown at the retail complex on Monday afternoon.

She was refused bail on a charge of child abduction.

An investigating detective said 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 ten metres away by the child’s mother, who snatched her child away,” he told the court.

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

Based on CCTV footage, police also disclosed 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.

In interviews following her arrest Creen 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 attended the Park Centre.

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

She denied trying to leave the mall 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.”

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

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

Dealing with the alleged abduction, Mr Breen argued that his client was carrying the little boy towards the seating area and not towards the exit.

“She wasn’t attempting to leave the scene,” he insisted.

“Throughout the interview when she was shown the video she was adamant that she wouldn’t harm children.”

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

“She is a pitiful (individual),” he added.

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

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