Gran of girl, 8, ‘abducted by babysitter and man’ tells of relief as she’s found safe
The grandmother of a girl allegedly abducted by her babysitter and a man has told of her family’s relief after the youngster was found “safe and well”.
Two suspects were arrested after a 16-hour manhunt in Bristol and police said the eight-year-old wasn’t returned to her mother following a trip to McDonald’s.
Police said she was with neighbour and family friend Annmarie Lawton, 29, and an unknown man, known only as Adam.
The girl’s 80-year-old grandmother says the family was distraught when she didn’t come home on Wednesday afternoon and police launched a desperate search that finally came to an end on Thursday morning.
The grandmother said she barely slept after finding out that her granddaughter had allegedly been abducted.
She told the Daily Mail: “You can only imagine the relief when I was told that she had been found safe and well – that was the best Christmas present I could have wished for.
“The whole family are just so happy to have her back. She’s such a lively and happy girl and we just all hope that she’s not too badly hurt by her experience.”
Avon and Somerset Police said Lawton and the man took the girl out soon after 3pm on Wednesday to visit a McDonald’s restaurant, and were expected to return within an hour.
CCTV later showed them eating their takeaway in front of a shop.
The girl’s mother reported her missing at about 7pm.
Pictures and video posted on Twitter show what appears to be Lawton sobbing as she and a man were detained by police near the Galleries shopping centre in Broadmead at about 9am on Thursday.
The adults were led away from the shopping centre and an officer was seen carrying an orange carrier bag containing what looked to be children’s toys and a pink umbrella.
The girl wasn’t visible in the photos or video, but police confirmed she was safe.
Later, police said a 25-year-old man and 29-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of child abduction following a call from a member of the public.
“The child is safe and well in the care of specialist police officers who are working closely with other agencies to support her and her family,” a police spokeswoman said.
A man, who witnessed the adults being taken into custody, said: “As I understand it, they were spotted first by a member of the public in Broadmead, then they walked to the Galleries, and it was in the Galleries that the police found them with the girl.
“Someone who saw them said they looked like they were arguing, and the little girl was with them.
“They were just seemingly going shopping on a Thursday morning.
“They said that she seemed fine [the girl] when she was with them, but when they got apprehended she seemed quite upset.
“She was taken away safely by police.
“The man was walked down Union Street, and the woman was put in the back of a police car.
“She was talking to the police. I don’t know what they were saying though.
“The police came within minutes. It was very impressive.
“The best news is that the little girl is safe.”
Detective Superintendent Lisa Simpson said: “Members of the community and the media who shared our appeal this morning have undoubtedly played a big part in finding this little girl so quickly.
“I want to share my thanks on behalf of the investigative team and the family.
“This is an incredibly unusual incident which understandably has caused significant distress and we’re treating it with the seriousness and sensitivity you would expect.
“The circumstances are now part of an ongoing investigation, however I want to reassure people that we have no evidence to suggest any wider child safety issue in south Bristol.
“I’d also encourage people to consider the welfare of this young girl and not to speculate on the circumstances on social media.
“Such speculation may also have the potential to affect our live inquiry.”