A shop owner has spoken of her terror at receiving a string of threats and menacing phone calls after being falsely accused of trying to cash in on the Conisbrough death crash which killed five teenagers.
Anita Sethi and husband Raj say they have been bombarded with abusive messages and even visits by gangs to their convenience store after a message was circulated on social media saying the couple had sold off Chinese lanterns to grieving teenagers planning a nearby candelit vigil at inflated prices.
Now the upset Asian couple, who run the Best One Shop in Town Moor, have called in the police and their solicitors following the hate campaign, which included racist abuse.
A tearful Mrs Sethi said: “We have been living in fear. Me and my entire family have been very scared and nervous and have taken a lot of very scary and threatening phone calls from people saying awful things. It has been very frightening.”
The problems started when a photo of the shop, which the family have run for the past fifteen years, was circulated on Facebook along with the message: “The Best One Shop covenience store needs to be boycotted. They cashed in on the five young lives lost this weekend. The owner stocked up on sky lanterns for the memorial held on Town Fields and charged grieving teenagers £5 for one - they had sold them at £1.99 previously.
“Perhaps people should politely call him and ask him if he intends to rectify this insult to the community.”
Mrs Sethi, 47, added: “It is all a pack of lies. We sold a few on the night for £2 that we already had in stock and that was it. We didn’t even know there was an event going on until people starting coming in and asking if we sold them. Have these people got nothing better to do than try and destroy other’s lives?
“We have been in the community for a long time and everyone knows us so something like this is absolutely disgusting.”
After the message was spread on social media - including Facebook pages run by right-wing campaign group the English Defence League - the couple received a string of threatening calls with some callers telling Mrs Sethi and her husband they were going to attack the shop with bricks.
A gang of youths even visited the premises and the terrified couple were forced to close security shutters after being tipped off by another customer that the group were planning to hurl eggs at the windows.
Mrs Sethi said the lanterns sold had been left over stock from Bonfire Night. Hundreds were set off from Town Field earlier this week in remembrance of teenagers Blake Cairns, 16, Bartosz Bortniczak, 18, Megan Storey, 16, Jordanna Goodwin, 16 and Arpad Kore, 18, who all died after the car they were in was involved in a horror collision near Conisbrough on Saturday night.
She added: “Arpad was a regular in the shop and was a lovely lad. I was in tears when I heard the news and we’ve got a collection bucket in the shop for the families. These lies are so hurtful and upsetting for us all.”
“I am a mother of five and I am scared for the safety of my own children. I have lost a child of my own so understand the pain the families are going through and can’t believe people can be so sick and nasty to target us in this way.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said the matter was being investigated and added: “We are aware of a number of incidents at a shop in Town Moor, Doncaster following a post on social media. We will be looking into these incidents and paying particular attention to the shop over the weekend. We will not tolerate antisocial behaviour and anybody found to be taking part in incidents of this nature will be dealt with.”