The parents of a toddler found wandering alone on a beach in Tunisia after disappearing from a holiday kids’ club have spoken of their “nightmare”.
Billy, 30, and Claire Bryson, 32, from Monifieth were on a fortnight’s holiday with Thomas Cook with their children Ella – then aged two – Ruby, nine, and Billie, four, when the incident took place.
They had taken Ella to a kids’ club run by the Sahara Beach AquaPark Resort near the city of Monastir.
About 20 minutes later, a fellow holidaymaker brought a distressed Ella back to Billy – having found her wandering alone on a nearby beach.
The guest saw him at the juice bar and was able to recognise Billy, because they had both chatted the day before.
Billy said: “You always think about the worst that could happen.
“Somebody could have grabbed her on the beach or she could have gone into the water and drowned. If somebody had picked her up, how were security going to know that she wasn’t just crying for her mum?”
Billy said after Ella was returned to him, he went to speak to a hotel rep who was running the club to express his anger about what had happened and to get answers.
“She was saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry’. I said, ‘Sorry? I could have never seen my daughter again – she’s two. You’re supposed to be the adult – how could you let my two-year-old daughter vanish?’
“When I went back to tell her that my daughter had been brought back to us, she wasn’t even aware that she was missing. She had no clue where my daughter was.”
Claire believes Ella slipped out of the kids’ club without any supervision after taking part in an activity in the clubhouse, and says her daughter wandered off looking for both her and Billy.
She said: “When Billy brought Ella over to me, he was in such a state. Ella was red and still shaking.”
Two kids’ clubs operate at the resort. One is a Thomas Cook club and the other, at which Ella was dropped off, is run by the hotel.
The family complained to Thomas Cook about the incident, having booked their holiday with the firm.
More than a month since the holiday, Billy said the experience is still affecting Ella, now three.
He said: “Even now, if we go to Asda, she’s holding your hand as tight as she can or she’s climbing to get up or she’s wanting to sit in the trolley. Before she was never like that.”
Claire said: “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. The nightmares I’ve been having since have been terrible.”
The family met the guest, who found Ella, at a disco. Billy said: “We can’t thank her enough.”
Claire has vowed never to travel with Thomas Cook or go to the resort again.
A company spokeswoman said: “Customer safety is our first priority, so we were very concerned to hear of this incident and we understand how distressing it must have been.
“We are urgently investigating with the hotel to get to the bottom of what happened and make any changes needed.”
The Sahara Beach AquaPark was contacted for comment but has yet to respond.