PARENTS were left horrified when an angry mum is said to have spat in the face of an elf at a shopping centre grotto.

The mother is alleged to have accused another woman of pushing in front of her in the queue.

Police are now investigating after the incident at the Castlegate Shopping Centre in Stockton, Teesside, over the weekend.

Manager Karen Eve said: "Nobody expects something like this to happen at a grotto for children at Christmas.

"It was an appalling incident and all our customers have been horrified by it.

"I am pleased to say that the elf in question has recovered and is still working inside the grotto.

"It is the elves' jobs to welcome the children and make sure they have a magical experience.

"They do not deserve to be treated like this while they are merely carrying out their duties."

When the mother became angry the elves tried their best to calm her down during an hour that had been reserved specifically for children with autism.

The elves, who are responsible for greeting kids and leading them to Santa Claus, tried to explain other parents had booked slots during the special time period.

But the aggrieved mother took exception to this and is alleged to have spat in the face of the shocked female elf.

Ms Eve added: "We have a special hour between 3pm and 4pm every day which is just for children with autism. Parents book spaces in advance.

"This woman did not like the fact that other people were being given priority.

"We reserve that hour to reduce stress for children with autism, to prevent them having to queue. We dim the lights and try to cater for special needs they have.

"We are treating this as an isolated incident. We think it is a one-off and we are offering our staff as much help as they need."

  • Cleveland Police are appealing for witnesses to the assault, which happened between 3pm and 4pm on Saturday. Call 101.