Shahkiel Akbar, 25 of Fenham, Newcastle who found a Chinese letter in his new socks from Primark
Primark shopper Shahkiel Akbar was stunned after finding a letter claiming to be from a Chinese torture victim in a pair of budget socks.
The call centre worker, from Fenham, Newcastle, discovered the note after purchasing the black cotton-rich footwear from the value retailer’s Metrocentre store.
Shahkiel became alarmed when he translated the note into English and found what appeared to be a desperate cry for help.
However a spokesman for Primark says the company believes him to be the latest in a line of customers to become caught up in an elaborate hoax, which has seen similar letters turning up among clothing bought across the country.
Shahkiel said: “I knew it was something sinister when I saw it. I was really shocked. I do feel responsible now I have found this. I just thought I need to shout it out.”
Shahkiel found the letter a couple of weeks after being the socks.
“I was just thinking; ‘What is this?’ when I found it,” he said. “
Alarmed by its presence the 25-year-old took it to his local Chinese takeaway to see if staff could translate it for him. However the owner said he was Korean and could not read Chinese.
Determined to discover the contents of the correspondence he had unwittingly gained possession of Shahkiel then found an app on his phone that allowed him to take a picture of the words and translate them into English.
“It was an SOS from a 39-year-old man living in China. From the words I could translate you could see he was distressed,” he said. “It seemed like he was risking a lot to try and get a message out. He said he had endured physical and psychological abuse and that he was forced to make these socks. It felt like a real burden to me.”
Shahkiel is not the first Primark customer to find a bizarre Chinese note hidden in socks.
And the company has received similar reports from a customer in Huddersfield who bought socks for her dad.
However, a Primark spokesman says the retailer believes its products are being hijacked by someone trying to gain publicity, and the letter has nothing to do with its staff or suppliers.
He said: “The Primark name is being used to gain publicity for the plight of this individual. We have found no link at all between this individual and any of our suppliers’ factories in China. We think it is likely that the note was added after production and it is feasible it was added in transit or at a port.”