Published: 06:00, 08 June 2021
| Updated: 10:22, 09 June 2021
A dad-of-two who was banned from his local supermarket after forgetting to pay for cat food believes he and his autistic daughter are being unfairly "targeted".
Symon Mansell went shopping at the Sainsbury's in the Priory Shopping Centre in Dartford last Wednesday.
The 43-year-old, who lives in Willow Road on the Tree Estate, had visited the store with his eight-year-old daughter, Aleisha-Anne who has been diagnosed with autism and epilepsy.
He said: "My daughter gets quite anxious in big stores when there are a lot of people around and we were in the store for approximately 15 minutes."
Dad Symon used his phone to scan around £20 worth of goods which he later paid for at the self checkout.
In-between payment they headed to the in-store-Argos to purchase a present for his son, whose birthday was the following day.
On their way to the checkout Symon remembered they needed to pick up some cat food, costing £5, but in the midst of doing so his daughter became overwhelmed at her surroundings and he forgot to scan it along with the other items.
"This was very distressing for my autistic daughter, she was crying as she didn't understand what was going on..."
"I realised we needed some cat food but I didn't realise we didn't scan it until later," he said.
It was only when they had paid and left the store and were waiting at the taxi rank outside they were approached by security.
He explained to the staff member: "I was so busy trying to keep my daughter entertained I must have completely forgot to scan it."
"My daughter was sat in the trolley, she's quite tall for her age so her legs were covering the cat food."
But security at the store viewed the incident as theft and police were reportedly called.
He added: "I felt really bad and offered to pay for the cat food straight away, then he told me that I had been detained for shoplifting and that I'm going to be banned from the store. This was very distressing for my autistic daughter, she was crying as she didn't understand what was going on."
Symon says he presented the receipt for his other items but the security guard was not interested in his account and accused them both of being "disruptive" which upset his daughter. In anger, the shopper then refused to give his name.
Both had been wearing sunflower lanyards, a discreet sign the wearer or someone accompanying them has an invisible disability and requires additional assistance.
The dad-of-two says he had no criminal record and had not been in any trouble with the store or any others in Dartford before.
He recounts one previous occasion when his daughter mistakenly left the shop with a pair of toy bunny ears.
But after realising what had happened the dad immediately returned to the store and offered to pay for them, insisting he had no idea she had taken them.
In the past he says staff have been very accommodating and understanding of his children's complex needs.
He said: "I have been shopping in that shop for over 10 years.
"I know all the staff. We are on good terms," he added. "They have been so helpful in there when my children have had meltdowns."
Symon says he spends around £200 in-store each month and was "absolutely mortified" to receive a letter banning him.
To add to their woes the family rely on the Lloyd's pharmacy inside for their medicines and will now have to travel several miles to reach the next biggest supermarket in Crayford.
"I just feel really hard done by. It just feels like we are being targeted."
As they don't drive Symon says this will inflict further unnecessary hardship on the family.
He said: "I just feel really hard done by. It just feels like we are being targeted."
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We’re looking into the customer’s experience.”