A senior police official has praised the work of officers and partners to help trace a kidnapped toddler.
A three-year-old girl was taken from the Primark store in Northumberland Street, Newcastle, on Wednesday, April 13, sparking a city-wide search.
The alarm was raised at 4.55pm and CCTV from the store showed the young girl had left the premises with two teenage girls who she did not know.
A full search operation was launched and an alert about the incident, including the description of the child and the two teenagers, was issued to all officers across the force area.
The alert was shared with city centre retail and security staff via the local ShopWatch scheme and travel networks were also informed.
Further CCTV images showed the girls walking up Northumberland Street and getting onto the Metro at Haymarket station, leading police to widen the search.
While searches and inquiries were ongoing, officers based in North Tyneside recognised the description of the two teenage girls from the circulation, passing their information onto the officer in charge of the search, suggesting the girls may head to Gosforth Central Park.
Officers carried out a search of the area and at 6.01pm they spotted the two teenage girls and the child in Gosforth Park.
The girls, aged 13 and 14, were arrested and the child, who was not injured, was taken into safety and re-united with her mother.
And appearing at North Tyneside Magistrates Court today (Tuesday), they pleaded guilty to kidnap and two charges of theft. They will be sentenced at a later date.
Chief Superintendent Laura Young said: “To lose a child, or have a child taken from you in these circumstances, must be every parent’s worst nightmare and this is a story which I’m sure will strike a chord with every parent across the country.
“I am just glad that we are in a position today where the child is safely back home with her mother and hopefully this awful incident can be put behind them and they can continue with their lives as normal.
“The fact that this is the case is down to the excellent work of our officers on that day and the support we received from partners and the public. I want to highlight and praise the policing and community response that led to the child being found safe.
“The moment that we were informed that the child had gone missing a swift and comprehensive policing operation was initiated.
“The safety of a lost child will always be a priority for the police but when there is a suggestion that a child may have been taken then it becomes even more imperative that we act quickly and that we do everything we can to find them.
“The quick thinking and immediate actions taken by the officers who attended the initial report meant we had details of the missing child along with the two girls circulated to lots of people very quickly.
“The help from the likes of local businesses in Northumberland street, Nexus, Newcastle City Council and Eldon Square allowed us to quickly identify a route that the children had taken and meant we had hundreds of extra eyes out on the ground looking for them.
“This joint effort was so important and the response from local businesses and our partners really highlights the ability of us all to come together in an emergency.
“The information that eventually led us to locating the girls in Gosforth Park came from two officers from the North Tyneside area.
“They had seen the bulletin and thinking they knew who the girls might be provided the officer in charge of the search with a possible location. This ultimately proved vital and directly led us to finding the missing child.
“Their help, local knowledge and quick thinking meant we were able to get the child back and re-unite her with her mother safe and well and I am so proud of the response from all of our officers as well as from our partners and the public. “The two children charged with this offence clearly need a lot of help and support and we must now allow the justice system to do its job and respect this process.
“What is far more important is that the child is now back safely with her family and that is down to the fantastic work of police, our partners and the public here in Newcastle.”