An eight-year-old boy ran away from home with his mum’s bank card before duping phone shop staff into selling him three mobiles.
Joshua Connolly fled his house on the London Road Estate and withdrew cash at the Wincheap Morrisons before walking into the EE store in Whitefriars.
Staff who sold him the phones claim they mistook the baby-faced schoolboy for a teenager after he told them two of the pre-pay phones were presents for his girlfriend and mum.
Joshua, who has autism, was eventually found and returned home by police – but not before treating himself to a McDonald’s and a new pair of shoes from Deichmann.
His mum, Kimberley, who has six other children aged between two and 17, has questioned why a boy so young was served while shopping alone.
“They didn’t ask ‘where’s your mum?’ or think to call the police to say there was a boy on his own,” she said.
“They sold him three phones and SIM cards after he gave them a sob story. He said ‘one is for my mum, one for my girlfriend and one for me’.”
Kimberley, 35, says Joshua scaled the ledge of a first-floor window and jumped down on to her car before embarking on his escapade.
“They sold him three phones and SIM cards after he gave them a sob story... He said ‘one is for my mum, one for my girlfriend and one for me’,” - Kimberley Connolly
“He’d taken £15 cash and my bank card from my purse,” she said.
“I checked my online banking and it said £75 had been taken out. He knew my pin number.”
Police were called at 1.50pm and Joshua was found little more than an hour later and returned home by officers.
He had bought a Nokia 130, a MobiWire Pictor and an Alcatel Pixi for £50 cash.
EE said Joshua was mistaken for a teenager when browsing the shop.
“Our store staff asked him why he needed three handsets, and he volunteered that one was a present for his mum, one was a present for his girlfriend, and one was for him,” a spokesman said.
“As he wished to purchase basic phones outright with no contract our store staff had no reason not to serve Ms Connolly’s son.
“As soon as Ms Connolly contacted the store to explain the situation we understood her concerns and invited her back to receive a full refund.
“We follow strict legal guidelines for who we sell to in our stores and take our obligations as a retailer seriously. We’re confident our staff followed the correct procedures and the law.”
Kimberley said Joshua had run away from their four-bedroom home in Priest Avenue before, and she had now removed the handles of some windows to stop him getting out.
His sister, Jasmine, 17, said: “He doesn’t realise he could be taken or something awful could happen to him.
“He’s so fast. We tried to find him but he’s so quick.”
Kimberley says Joshua is due to be re-assessed for ADHD in the hope he can get medication.
“Once I can get him sorted out it will make the household more manageable,” she said.