Teens still being questioned over abduction of three-year-old girl from Primark

Police are continuing to question two teenage girls on suspicion of abducting a three-year-old girl from a city centre shop.

Thursday, 14th April 2016, 4:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2016, 4:52 pm
Gosforth Central Park, where the two teenage girls were found with the toddler.

The toddler disappeared from Primark in Northumberland Street, Newcastle, at around 5pm yesterday.

Northumbria Police said the teenagers and the little girl were "complete strangers".

Her disappearance sparked a city-wide search after officers found she had left the store with the two older girls, leaving her mother "incredibly" distressed.

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Police trawled through CCTV from Newcastle City Council, local shops, Newcastle University, bus companies, the Metro and their own cameras in search of the child.

She was eventually found nearly three miles (4.8km) away and more than an hour later in Gosforth, north Newcastle, by a police officer.

The alleged kidnappers, aged 13 and 14, were arrested on suspicion of child abduction and taken for questioning.

A force spokesman said they were still in custody on Thursday morning. He would not comment on any apparent motive for the alleged abduction.

Chief Inspector Dave Gould said: "Thankfully the child was quickly located by officers and then reunited with her mother. This has been an incredibly distressing time for the girl's family and specialist officers are working with and supporting the family.

"We mobilised all available local police resources to make sure the girl was found as quickly as possible and also included assistance from the public, and many of our partner agencies including Newcastle local authority and university as well as staff from retail premises, bus companies, train station and Metro system.

"I would like to thank all of those involved for their help in finding this little girl and helping reunite her with her mother.

"Our inquiries will now continue to establish the circumstances of what happened and speaking to the two teenage girls in custody regarding the incident."

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, praised the police and the other organisations involved in quickly finding the girl, saying on Twitter that it was "every parent's nightmare".

A spokeswoman for Primark said they are "co-operating with the police on the investigation". The company declined to comment any further.

The teenagers took the little girl to a Sainsbury's before leading her out into a park, a shopping centre employee said.

Police rushed to close off all the entrances to Gosforth Central Park, which stands behind a small shopping centre and is just off the High Street, and then made the arrests.

The employee, who did not want to be named, said the girls were seen in the Sainsbury's, then were tracked to one of two play areas in the park.

He said: "Police had blocked off all the entrances and they were stopped up near the shopping centre."

According to reports there was a tearful reunion for the mother and her young daughter in the park.

The scene in the well-kept, tree-lined park was tranquil this afternoon, as parents with toddlers took them to play on the equipment, while older children from local schools walked through.