AN investigation has been launched after a bogus police officer tried to search two children he had accused of shoplifting.

Police are carrying out inquiries regarding the incident which took place at the High Street Sainsbury’s store in Halstead.

A man pretending to be an off-duty police officer approached the children and accused them of shoplifting on Saturday at about 5pm.

The two children, who are siblings, were at the shop during the Christmas celebrations in the town with their nan and baby brother.

The nan, who was babysitting the children, bought what she needed and went to wait outside for the children.

The children claim the man grabbed them from behind and showed them a fake police badge before demanding they remove items of clothing to prove they had no stolen chocolate in their possession.

The children say they co-operated but stopped when the man asked to look down their trousers.

The children claim shop staff supported the man and despite the children showing they had no stolen items, shouted at them and tried to make them stay at the shop.

The youngsters’ mother said they fled in fear and panic.

The mum, who asked not to be named, says they are furious with Sainsbury’s staff for helping the man.

She said: “I have spoken to a solicitor and am waiting to hear about CCTV footage.

“I’m saddened that Sainsbury’s wouldn’t help my children and aided a man posing as a police officer in abusing my children.

“I am glad that my daughter didn’t try to prove there was no sweets under her trouser waistline because he doesn’t have the right to see in her trousers.

“I hope the police and Sainsburys take this seriously, because I certainly am.”

Essex Police said it is in contact with the family and Sainsbury’s.

A police spokesman said: “We are investigating after a man impersonating a police officer accused two children of shoplifting while appearing to show identification outside Sainsbury’s in Halstead.

“The incident happened at 5pm on Saturday near to the store in High Street.

“No arrests have been made and our inquiries are ongoing to identify the man responsible.

“We have met with the victims and their parents and will remain in contact with them as the investigation progresses.

“Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information on it should submit a report online or you can also call us on 101 and cite incident 1069 of November 27.”

A Sainsburys spokesman said: “We are aware of the incident and are supporting the police with their investigation.”