A MUM was arrested in front of her distraught children and had her home searched all because she unwittingly handed over a fake £20 note.
Shocked Ashleigh Fitzpatrick today told how she spent four hours in police custody and was “made to feel like a criminal” despite having no idea the cash was counterfeit.
The hard-working mum-of-three’s ordeal began when she took some cash from the wallet of taxi-driver husband, Peter, on her way to Pallion Retail Park.
Ashleigh, 33, who is mum to Alex, nine, Rian, seven, and two-year-old Zak, then tried to pay for goods in B&M Bargains, but staff became suspicious of the note.
She said: “It never crossed my mind to inspect the note, it just looked like a faded, raggy old £20 note.”
Ashleigh, who had her youngest son with her, paid for her goods with a debit card instead and asked for the £20 back, but staff refused to hand it over and she left the shop.
The mum said: “Everyone in the whole shop stood still and was looking at me.
“I have never felt so embarrassed, they made me feel like a criminal.
“I would never lower myself to try and spend a fake note, that’s just not in my character.”
But Ashleigh’s ordeal wasn’t over.
A short time later after picking her husband and two older boys up, she was making her way home when the police pulled her over.
She said: “I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was horrendous.”
Ashleigh, who works with adults with special needs, was arrested on suspicion of fraud and deception and spent four hours in the police station before being released with no case to answer.
While she was being quizzed, officers searched her Town End Farm home.
She said: “It was just terrible, all over what was clearly a mistake.
“It just seemed so over the top for one £20 note.
“It was so invasive having my home searched, DNA and fingerprints taken, mug shots and drug testing. Being in a cell was dreadful.”
A spokesman for B&M Bargains, said: “All retailers are under a legal duty to retain counterfeit banknotes and to notify the police. It is simply illegal for us to return them to a shopper.”
Northumbria Police confirmed the incident on Tuesday afternoon, September 27 and that Ashleigh had been released with no further police action.
A spokeswoman said: “Officers will always act on the information available and use their judgement on the most appropriate course of action.”