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Walk on by Britain: Two little girls pretend to be lost in a busy shopping centre. So how many people stop to help? One. How many ignore their plight?


Sonar

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  • The two girls stood for an hour in a busy shopping arcade
  • They were filmed as part of a social experiment for television
  • Astonishingly, only one person stopped to help them
  • Everyone else simply carried on going about their business
  • Passing couples even split apart to walk around the 'lost' girls

One little girl was clutching her favourite toy while her younger sister was sucking her thumb – and both looked utterly lost and forlorn.

In a bygone era, a concerned adult might have stopped to ask them where their mother was. But in a damning indictment of modern Britain, hundreds of busy people simply walked on by.

The girls stood for an hour on a Saturday morning in a busy shopping arcade looking for 'help', as part of a social experiment for television.

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Invisible: Even parents with pushchairs avoid Uma, seven, in London's Victoria Place shopping centre

Hidden cameras recorded Uma, seven, and Maya, five, who took it in turns to look lost.

Astonishingly, over the whole hour only one person, a grandmother, took a moment to find out if there was a problem. All of the 616 other passers-by completely ignored the girls.

Heartbreakingly for the mother of the sisters – who was watching from a hiding place nearby – passing couples even split apart to walk around either side of the 'lost' girls and people wheeling suitcases took evasive action to avoid Maya and Uma, not thinking to check if they needed help.

Yesterday the NSPCC said the results of the experiment were shocking and called on members of the public to step in if they saw a youngster looking lost.

ITN researchers chose Victoria Place shopping centre, next to London's bustling Victoria Station, to test the British public.

Maya and Uma agreed to help and were brought along by their mother Reshma Rumsey, who watched from behind a nearby pillar with a presenter. Uma went first, standing alone in the middle of the concourse, holding her pink doll and putting on a good act of being scared and vulnerable.

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this is a video ^ can be seen on the source link ^

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Vulnerable: Maya looks frightened as shoppers bustle past her in Victoria, central London

Under the gaze of the hidden cameras 25 yards away, dozens of shoppers and travellers bustled past. A mother with a pram manoeuvred around her, then a group of women pulling suitcases turned a blind eye.

After 20 minutes, not a single person had stopped to ask the seven-year-old if she was all right, even though some of them had plainly seen her.

Next, it was her five-year-old sister's turn. Maya stood sucking her thumb, and then tried kneeling down, gazing up forlornly at passing shoppers, but she too seemed to be invisible.

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At last: This woman was the only person to stop and ask if Maya was all right

Eventually, a pensioner gave her a concerned look. At first, Pearl Pitcher, of Kent, who is in her seventies, carried on walking, but she soon turned around and came back to ask Maya if she was waiting for somebody.

Mrs Pitcher said later: 'She had stood too long by herself and no parent or friend came up to see her. I was very hesitant to come and ask her, and I walked past but I thought I must come back – just in case.

'I think the older generation would stop, but very cautiously, a bit like I was. I don't know about the younger generation. A lot of people walked by and didn't take any notice at all.'

Mrs Rumsey said she was 'gobsmacked' by seeing her daughters ignored by more than 600 members of the public.

The 39-year-old journalist said: 'When you see that little face looking so lost, and people are walking past, it is awful.

'I did not expect so few people to stop … it's shocking that people noticed a child on her own and they just walked past, whether it's through fear or because they didn't care or because they didn't notice. As a mother, to watch your child on their own, looking lost and needing help and watch people walk past is heartbreaking.'

Experts said the reluctance of the passers-by was partly explained by people being busy, and partly a fear – especially among men – of any help they offer a child being misinterpreted.

But the NSPCC said a child's welfare was more important than worrying about being labelled a 'stranger danger'.

A spokesman said: 'We have got to get a message out to adults that they have a responsibility to protect children and that must supersede any concern you have for other people's perception of why you are reaching out to help that child.'

* Little Girl Lost: A Police 5 Special will be shown on Channel 5 at 6.30pm tomorrow. (tuesday 25th march 2014)

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Have you ever stopped to talk to a child?

I have, (started talking to me, that's why I stopped) and the mother appeared, grabbed the kids and gave me hateful looks like I was about to molest them.

Lesson learnt.

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maybe these girls were just bad actresses

Agreed.

I think this is a stupid experiment.In reality, when a child is scared or lost the first thing he/she does is crying.People are really busy with their lives,problems................ but not so busy to ignore a lonely crying child.

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maybe these girls were just bad actresses

Agreed.

I think this is a stupid experiment.In reality, when a child is scared or lost the first thing he/she does is crying.People are really busy with their lives,problems................ but not so busy to ignore a lonely crying child.

sorry but I'm afraid ill argue that reply. Nowadays children do not cry but are afraid to speak or move as they become very timid and shy.

The laws these days have made people how they are - you never know if the parents are stood there and ready to accuse people of something.

Ive done this my self many of times, thinking should I of stopped and at least said something.

for me if my daughter looses my hand/view I would like someone to approach her if shes stood on the spot like the 2 little girls that was broadcast on tv.

also com on guys bad actresses? they are 2 young little girls with no media/tv exp they are totally 100% them selfs no script to follow.

Have you ever stopped to talk to a child?

I have, (started talking to me, that's why I stopped) and the mother appeared, grabbed the kids and gave me hateful looks like I was about to molest them.

Lesson learnt.

thats exactly my point, we need to some how bring the world back together as one and not against each other but there is always going to be the baddies out ther.

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