London - A mother feared her seven-month-old daughter had been kidnapped when an Uber taxi driver accidentally drove off with the baby in the back seat.
Elisabeth Katompa, 31, screamed in panic and chased the driver down the road but couldn’t catch him.
Although she rang 999, she had to wait more than an hour before the driver realised her daughter, Olivia-Hope, had been left sleeping in a baby seat and contacted police.
He had picked up two other passengers before the second fare alerted him to the baby in the back. The first didn’t say anything.
Mrs Katompa, a nurse, said: "The panic that I was in. I was screaming and shouting. I called the police because that was the only thing I could think of."
She had been visiting her mother in Enfield, north London when she took a minicab home to nearby Tottenham with her sister.
The taxi pulled up outside her home just after 11 pm on Saturday and Mrs Katompa and her sister got out.
But as they made their way to the other side to unstrap the sleeping baby from her car seat, directly behind the driver, he set off oblivious.
Uber drivers do not have to wait to be paid because passengers using the online cab service pay with an app linked to their bank account.
"My sister and I chased him down the road and he didn’t even know that we were chasing him," Mrs Katompa said.
"We couldn’t catch up with him. I got so worried because you hear about things like that happening when someone just takes a child and then you never see them again. I didn’t know if he was aware that she was still there, I didn’t know if he did it on purpose. I didn’t know what to think."
In their panic, the pair called 999 instead of trying to contact Uber immediately. Police said they could not quickly track down the child as the Uber email receipt only had the driver’s first name and not his number plate. In the meantime, a man had booked the taxi and completed his journey without questioning the sleeping baby’s presence.
"He didn’t say anything," Mrs Katompa told the London Evening Standard. ‘Maybe he assumed she belonged to the driver.’ It was only when a second fare asked the driver if he was aware of the baby that he realised what had happened.
The driver took Olivia-Hope to Bishopsgate police station, about five miles from the home Mrs Katompa shares with her husband Oliver, 31.
"One of the officers on the radio said someone had just dropped a baby off at the police station," Mrs Katompa said. ‘The police blue-lighted us to the station. I was worried that it wouldn’t be my baby. It was scary."
Mrs Katompa was reunited with Olivia-Hope at the police station. "She wasn’t aware of anything that was going on and the officers were taking care of her," she said.
"I’m still shaken up by it. Even when we got home, I didn’t want to let go of her."
Uber said it was the first time such an incident had happened. It said: "We normally hear about drivers finding mobile phones or keys in the back seat of their car but never a sleeping baby."
The Metropolitan Police said the incident was not recorded as a crime.