An art specialist today told how she was handcuffed, arrested and held for seven hours after attempting to exchange an unwanted gift.
Harriet Wheeler was left “embarrassed and humiliated” after staff at a Mulberry store called the police in the belief that the jacket she was trying to return was stolen or a fake.
Miss Wheeler was finger-printed, photographed, DNA tested and locked in a cell for seven hours before being cleared by police.
The drama unfolded last Friday when Miss Wheeler, 25, went to the New Bond Street store and tried to exchange a £2,000 quilted black leather jacket given to her by a friend. She said: “When I brought it in, it took ages for it to be sorted out. The store manager kept telling me it wouldn’t be much longer. Eventually the police walked in. The area manager then came over with the two officers and said, ‘Come with us’.
“I didn’t know what was going on and when the police officer said I was under arrest for handling stolen goods I was in shock. Then she whacked the handcuffs on me. I was so upset, I was in a mess.”
Miss Wheeler, from Wandsworth, told how after waiting an hour for a patrol car to arrive, she was then “paraded” down New Bond Street in handcuffs to a police station.
“It was so humiliating,” she said. “I was left in a cell for four or five hours and when I asked how long it would be they replied, ‘How long is a piece of string? You could be looking at staying overnight.’ Then hours later a detective breezed in and said they had got hold of my friend, who was on holiday in Barbados, and he corroborated my story that the jacket wasn’t stolen.”
Miss Wheeler said she is a “good and loyal” Mulberry customer but staff assumed the jacket was stolen because only a limited number had been made and one in the same size had been stolen from the store. She added: “It’s been hugely embarrassing. I feel angry and it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.”
A Met spokesman said: “Following enquiries the woman was released and no further action was taken.”
A spokeswoman for Mulberry said staff called police after being “forewarned that a customer was attempting to return a product which had not been sold by Mulberry”. The company declined to comment further on the misunderstanding but suggested the jacket was not authentic.