25th July 2007
Ruth Ball and her four-year-old daughter Leigha
Missing: Madeleine McCann
A mother who scolded her tantrum-throwing daughter in a shop was outraged to be visited at home by police who told her it was inappropriate to reprimand the girl in the light of Madeleine McCann's disappearance.
Ruth Ball was at home when police officers knocked at her door and and ticked her off about the way she had chastised four-year-old Leigha.
The 24-year-old was told that the method she had used to reprimand Leigha was "inappropriate" in the light of Madeleine's disappearance from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal.
Ms Ball was at a newsagent in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, when Leigha started screaming after being refused sweets.
She swept her daughter out of the shop and put her in the car to calm down, standing a couple of feet away with her three-year-old son Jack.
A few minutes later she got into the car and drove the family home, thinking no more of it.
The following day a policeman visited her at her home in Luton to tell her off.
The officer said it was inadvisable to shout at her daughter and shut her in the car after what happened to missing Madeleine.
Ms Ball, who works as a care assistant, said: "I'm deeply sorry for what has happened to Madeleine, but why should I let my daughter get away with things because she was abducted?
"I am trying to raise two decent human beings, even though I have been advised by the police to let them run riot, turn into thugs and help keep the prison population going when they're older.
"Kids learn young. If they learn now that kicking, hitting and screaming gets what they want, what are they going to do when they're adults?"
Ms Ball added that she was shocked that somebody had taken down her numberplate and called police - but even more shocked that officers had visited her at home.
Ms Ball said: "Even the police officer said he didn't see the point in him being here. He had to come and show his face and tell me not to tell her off."
The force has been involved in various scandals and gaffes, including three in the space of a fortnight in May last year.
First, an elderly farmer was seized by armed police and thrown in a cell after - quite legally - firing a warning shot at a dog that was threatening his lambs.
Then it emerged four police officers had resigned after giving remand prisoners special favours - including sexual liaisons with girlfriends - in exchange for false confessions.
Days later, the force was criticised when a private school headmaster was found dead shortly after officers sent letters to parents asking if they had any 'concerns' about him. No arrest had been made at the time.
In 2004, a dangerous driving case collapsed at crown court because the arresting officer was teaching golf in Spain on a five-year career break.
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: "We received a call from a member of the public concerned for the safety of a young girl she had seen being put into a car.
"We attended the address of the owner and it transpired that the child, who was happy with no injuries, had been put in the car after having a tantrum.
"If Ms Ball is concerned with what happened or what was said, she is very welcome to contact us."