THE family of a pensioner have slammed “heavy-handed” staff at a supermarket in South Tyneside over the alleged theft of a sachet of cat food.
David Savage, an 88-year-old who suffers from bouts of confusion, was confronted by security staff at Morrisons, in South Shields, before he had even left the store and told he was banned after accidentally putting a packet of cat food in his pocket.
The store says it has a “zero tolerance” approach to shoplifting but the police were not called. His family claim he wasn’t even asked his name.
He was just told to leave, despite offering to pay.
When he returned the next day to have lunch in the store, he was told he could visit the café but was banned from shopping.
His daughter Carol Mitchell said: “This has really upset him and us. He’s no shoplifter. He hasn’t stolen anything in his life, he doesn’t need to. He gets confused easily, and to act the way they have is disgusting. For a group of them to approach him while he is eating his dinner, it’s nothing more than intimidation.”
Mr Savage, of Froude Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields, suffers from a range of health problems and was in the store on Sunday when he says he suffered a coughing fit.
His family say he must have accidently put the packet of cat food in his pocket along with his handkerchief.
The pensioner, who served as a teenager with the Royal Navy, was approached by security staff as he sat on seats in the store after paying for other items – including several more packets of cat food – at the checkout.
Mr Savage is a widower, who is registered as partially sighted, hard of hearing and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He returned to the store the next day for his lunch, where he told his family he was confronted by staff who told him he could visit the café but was banned from shopping upstairs.
Mrs Mitchell said: “He was distraught when he came home, and doesn’t understand what he has done wrong. ”
Mrs Mitchell says both she and her daughter Alix Dellin went to the store on Tuesday to speak to the manager, but claim they were told by one member of staff that a “shoplifter is a shoplifter”.
Miss Dellin, who is Mr Savage’s main carer, said: “Where do they get off treating someone as frail as my grandad like that? It was heavy handed and he was treated like a criminal.
“This was a genuine mistake by an old man who at times gets confused.”
Miss Dellin said Mr Savage had a heart attack last year and was fitted with a pacemaker in January.
She added: “Recent tests show that, 96 per cent of the time, it is the pacemaker which is keeping him going.
“Going up to him as they did, anything could have happened.
“Going to Morrisons for his dinner and then doing his bit of shopping is something he has done since his wife died 18 months ago. It’s something he enjoys doing and the staff all know him in the café.”
Mr Savage lost his wife Isabel, who had Alzheimer’s, 18 months ago after spending three years caring for her at home before she was admitted to Ashley Mews Care home. His family say he walked there every day to spend time with her.
The family say they are unhappy with the response they have received from the store and plan to take the issue further.
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to shoplifting. Mr Savage was seen by a member of staff removing a pouch of cat food from his basket and placing it into his pocket. Before reaching the checkout, he was given the opportunity to declare and pay for the item but failed to do so.
“On leaving the store he was challenged and the cat food was discovered. We have made an exception to our policy of reporting all theft and have not involved the police.”