Dad treated like a paedophile after hotel calls police during stay with his daughter

Craig Darwell and daughter Millie, from Kippax, were visiting Thorpe Park when the incident occurred.
Craig Darwell and daughter Millie, from Kippax, were visiting Thorpe Park when the incident occurred.

A father was left shocked when staff at a budget hotel called police after he arrived to stay in a room with his daughter.

Craig Darwell, 46, was taking 13-year-old Millie for a weekend at the Thorpe Park theme park in Surrey when the incident happened at a Travelodge in nearby Chertsey last week.

The single dad, from Kippax, was questioned by reception staff who expressed concern that the pair were not related to each other.

He had booked a double room in advance after being told it was the only accommodation available, and paid by credit card back in January.

“The staff asked if I had ID, but as I’d already booked and paid I had no passport or anything with me. I showed them some photos on my phone, and even went on Facebook and showed them a picture of Millie as a baby I’d posted on her 13th birthday. They reluctantly gave us the room key and we went upstairs.”

Another member of staff had even commented that he could see the family resemblance between Craig and Millie, but when the car trader, who has raised Millie since her mother died when she was four years old, returned to the reception, he was told that the police had been called.

“They still wanted ID and said it was company policy. I’ve never had anything like this before - I’ve been abroad with her three times. I asked them on what grounds they’d rung the police, and a female PC turned up about two minutes later. It took her about 10 seconds to realise that we were genuine, but she still had to conduct an interview.

“The most upsetting part was that they had to check on my daughter - she was distraught. We were supposed to be going out for a meal but she was so upset she wouldn’t leave the room.”

Mr Darwell has made a complaint to Travelodge, but claims he has yet to receive an apology or a refund.

“It spoiled the week really. We stayed in the resort but it did spoil it. Common sense should have prevailed. I understand the need to be vigilant if anything arouses suspicion, but this has never happened before,” he added.

A Travelodge spokesperson said: “We take our responsibilities towards protecting children and vulnerable young people extremely seriously. Our colleagues are trained based on current national guidelines from the NSPCC, the police and other agencies and in the past, hotel team actions have led to successful intervention to protect young people.

“Clearly fine judgements have to be made and we deeply regret any distress or inconvenience caused to Mr.Darwell on this occasion. We are undertaking a full investigation into the circumstances and will take careful note of any lessons learned in due course, including additional training where appropriate.

“In the meantime, we would like to apologise to Mr.Darwell for the situation he encountered and we will be making further contact with him as our investigation continues.”

Surrey Police added: “Police were called by a member of staff at the Travelodge in Chertsey on Thursday March 30 just after 8pm following a concern for safety. Officers attended and made no arrests, no further enquiries will take place. Hotels, taxi companies and other licensed premises have recently been equipped with the right knowledge to identify children who could be at risk of exploitation under Operation Makesafe.”