An Ottawa girl planted sewing needles in her own Halloween chocolates, prompting a warning to parents in an east end neighbourhood to check all candy, police now say.
Police warned Tuesday morning that a child bit into a chocolate bar containing a needle — but was not injured — after trick-or-treating around Meadowbrook Road.
The child's mother called 911 around 10:30 p.m. on Halloween to report the dangerous candy after finding needles in two more chocolate bars, police said.
Police officers confirmed there were needles in the chocolate Monday night, but after interviewing the girl and her mother on Tuesday, determined the complaint was unfounded. The girl, who is between the ages of 10 and 13, was issued a warning but won't face charges, police said.
"There was no tampering with candy by a stranger," police tweeted at 11:36 a.m.
UPDATE: Our completed investigation has confirmed that the complaint was unfounded. There was no tampering with candy by a stranger. https://t.co/rE8gcab2ed— @OttawaPolice
Ottawa police are nevertheless continuing to remind parents to check their kids' Halloween hauls.
"The Ottawa Police Service reminds parents to inspect all of their children's candy prior to letting them eat it, and be aware that the wrappers may not appear to have been tampered with. If anything suspicious is found please call police and keep the candy and wrappers."
Parents heeded warning
After police issued the initial warning, parents in the neighbourhood near the intersection of Blair and Innes roads were examining trick-or-treating spoils — some even throwing the lot out to avoid any risk.
Vanessa Corkey, a mother who lives in the neighbourhood, said she discussed the police warning with her husband this morning and decided not to keep the candy her 11-year-old daughter collected while trick-or-treating last night.
"We are going to throw it out," she told CBC News before police issued the update. "It's my daughter's life."
She said it's "awful" that a fun activity for kids has to end with such a grim warning from police.
"It's heartbreaking because kids just want to have fun," she said.
Majority of cases are hoaxes, says experts
Joel Best, the world's leading (and possibly only) authority on poisoned candy says the vast majority of Halloween candy tampering reports are hoaxes.
The sociology and criminal justice professor at the University of Delaware started studying deviant behaviour in the early 1970s. At the time there were a lot of news stories about Halloween candy tampering, but he couldn't think of a reason why someone would do it.
So he started tracking incidents, searching as far back as 1958. He still collects data today as a hobby.
"I can't find any evidence that any child has been killed or seriously hurt by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating," he said.
"It remains the case that people get excited about this. They get caught up in it. What it teaches you is folklore is really powerful."
Best says in most cases children are behind the incidents.
"Claiming to have received a contaminated treat is a way of getting the concerned attention of adults who are going to treat you respectfully. They're going to treat you like a victim, rather than like a troublemaker," he said.