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Mother left ‘traumatised’ after being questioned for possible child trafficking at airport

A single mother said she was left “traumatised” after she was stopped at an airport by police for suspected child trafficking.

Bridgetta Tomarchio, 45, was travelling with her four-year-old son to go and visit her child’s father and when she got off the aircraft at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, she was confronted by officers.

She says she was waiting in a hire car office when two officers came in and started to question her about her son and told her they had received a report of potential child trafficking.

Ms Tomarchio, who regularly flies with her son and has a companion pass, said the officers asked to see identification for her son.

“Now, my son has a different last name than me, so I also handed them my ticket, and I said, ‘Here’s my ticket, here’s his ticket,’ and they said to me, ‘Oh, he has a ticket?’,” she told Fox19.

In bodycam footage obtained by various outlets, Ms Tomarchio can be seen standing in a Hertz office when a person who appears to be an officer said they had a couple of calls and asked the mother if this was her child.

“Okay, I don’t know what exactly is going on, but I guess a pilot was concerned about potential trafficking. I don’t know if something was said or what he heard,” the officer can be heard saying.

“It’s traumatising. I’m shaking inside, like thinking to myself, ‘What did I do?’ I don’t even understand what could have possibly happened,” she told the outlet.

During the flight, she said her son was cold and tired, so he slept the entire flight wrapped in her jacket.

Ms Tomarchio claimed that officers revealed that it was a call from a Southwest Airlines pilot that started the investigation, something she said was “really messed up,” according to the outlet.

However, Southwest Airlines told Fox19 that after investigating the incident, they believe that company employees were not involved in the incident.

“After further investigation, the information we have is that we’ve determined Southwest employees were not involved in this situation, as calls made to local authorities appeared to have been placed by an individual or individuals who are not affiliated with Southwest Airlines.

“These are serious allegations and we appreciate the patience from the customer to allow us to look into these claims. Our customer engagement team will be in touch with the customer to further discuss the investigation,” the airline added.

According to a dispatch report from the airport, “a pilot” was listed as the caller, but was not specifically a Southwest pilot, Fox19 said.

Ms Tomarchio is calling for airlines to have an improved protocol when it comes to cases of suspected child trafficking.

She has recently started an online petition for all children travelling by plane to carry government-issued IDs with both legal parents’ names on them, something that she hopes would improve child safety.

She told the Daily Mail, “The unjust accusation left me feeling humiliated and emotionally traumatised and highlights a trouble[d] pattern of discriminatory behaviour towards single parents, particularly those who do not share the same last names or physical appearances as their children.”

“It is unacceptable that in this day and age, a single mother travelling with their child can be targeted and accused of such a heinous crime based solely on unfounded suspicions without any protocol in place,” she added.

The Independent has contacted Southwest Airlines for comment.