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Swedish store 'sorry' for dousing beggar

Published: 21 Mar 2014 14:55 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Mar 2014 15:11 GMT+01:00

A Swedish passer-by witnessed the event and quickly wrote about his shock and outrage on social media. The post soon made the rounds online. 

The supermarket chain Hemköp on Friday said it had apologized in person to the woman in question.

"Hemköp in all ways wants to express regret that Vanessa Ileva was doused with water in connection to the store manager at Stigbergstorget washing the windows without paying due attention," a statement read.

The head of communications for the entire chain, which has 180 stores across Sweden, told The Local she made sure to have a translator with her so that she and Ileva would be able to communicate as well as possible.

"She was very grateful that I was there and that we apologized, but I also wanted to hear how she had experienced the event," Maria Nobel told The Local on Friday. 

Ileva, 28, who told local media she had worked in Spain before travelling to Sweden, yelped and started crying after the dousing, drawing attention from nearby florist Lillian Pekkari who walked over to comfort her. But the store manager showed up again, Pekkari told the Metro newspaper. 

"He came out again with a new bucket of water that he threw at the next window pane just as aggressively," she said. 

When news broke of the dousing last week, several hundred people assembled outside the Hemköp store demanding an answer. The store manager was threatened and has since gone on sick leave, Sveriges Radio reported.

Spokeswoman Maria Nobel declined to comment on how the furore had affected the store staff. 

"It's of course been stressful, but out of respect for them I don't want to comment further," she said. 

The story hit a raw nerve with Swedes, many of whom have mixed feelings about the surge of people asking for money on street corners.

Nobel added no further explanation to the conclusion of the internal review that the store manager had not shown "due consideration", but she said that Hemköp understood why the incident had sparked such attention.

"Maybe because it's a hot topic. We understand fully why it caused such commotion," she said. "It was serious what happened and we take it seriously."

Also on Friday, the Metro newspaper reported that an Instagram account had been set up to photograph and register beggars in Stockholm, with the aim to highlight what "politicians don't give a s*** about".  And on Thursday, the Expressen newspaper also reported that a small Ica store in Fornåsa had put up a sign discouraging its shoppers to give money.

"Please! Don't give the beggars anything," the post read,

Local resident Sanna Käck at first didn't believe the news and headed off to the store to check that the reporter hadn't been fooled by a photo montage. Surely a company wouldn't tell its customers what to do, she thought.

"I couldn't believe it when I saw it (the sign) with my own eyes," Käck reported back to Expressen.
 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

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