A WOMAN claims being mistaken for a shoplifter and questioned in a windowless room at Marks and Spencer left her so traumatised she still struggles in public places 20 months later.
Pearly Kanagaratnam says she is being treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after being repeatedly told she could not phone her husband and being quizzed about her designer handbag and whether she holidayed in Spain.
Mrs Kanagaratnam said she went to The Glades shopping centre store in Bromley on June 14 2011 to return a pair of trousers but, after leaving, was mistaken by security for a shoplifter wearing a similar cardigan.
The 52-year-old, who broke off several times in tears whilst recounting the ordeal, said: "It has totally affected my life. I can’t go out by myself now.
"When I’m out, I feel really emotional.
"I’m trying to go out more to get over it but it’s really hard. I can’t go in that store now or any stores really."
She explained: "I had the receipt with me for the trousers I’d returned so I wasn’t worried, but then they took me into this room at the back without windows.
"I asked if I could call my husband because he was waiting in the car and they told me I couldn’t. I kept asking what it was about and they wouldn’t tell me.
"If they’d asked to see the cardigan they thought I’d stolen, I could have shown it to them and they would have seen it was a totally different brand."
Mrs Kanagaratnam, of Hayes Way, Beckenham, said: "I felt awful. They kept asking me all these questions and I had to show my credit cards.
"There was a lady there, who turned out to be a PCSO, and she was asking me really strange questions like, 'I bet you go on holiday to Spain, don’t you?' and 'Why do you have a D&G handbag?'"
The Sri Lankan self-employed hospitality worker added: "I was really upset and was in tears. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me at this age when I hadn’t done anything.
"At the end the operations manager came in and said they’d made a mistake because another woman wearing the same colour cardigan to me was thought to have shoplifted.
"She apologised but she didn’t look at my face and it didn’t feel like she was really sorry."
After writing a complaint letter, she was invited back to the store and offered £400 in vouchers but she refused to accept them.
Mrs Kanagaratnam is now suing Marks and Spencer for a personal injury claim and the civil case takes place next month.
A Marks and Spencer spokesman said: "As legal proceedings are taking place, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this stage."