Missing girl taken in Newham car theft found

Two-year-old Maria, who is missingImage copyright Police handout
Image caption Police were urgently searching for 17-month-old Maria Tudorica

A 17-month-old girl taken during a car theft has been found safe and well.

Maria Tudorica was taken in Nine Acres Close, Newham, east London, at 16:37 GMT on Sunday.

Scotland Yard tweeted just before 20:00 that she had been found less than a mile away in the Ruskin Avenue area.

Maria was in the front passenger seat of a black Audi A5 when her father met an unknown man with a view to selling the car – but the thief jumped in and drove away.

The empty vehicle was later found abandoned in nearby Hatherway Crescent.

A huge police search was launched for Maria, who was born in Romania but lives in the local area with her family.

The Met said Maria was found in the street wearing an additional item of clothing which they believe was given to her by the car thief or by a member of the public.

When his niece was found, Maria’s uncle, car trader Gheorghe Stelica, 25, said: “God bless. I feel born again.

“I feel am a new guy. I feel over a thousand times relief. My brother, he’s happy. He thank so much the police for their service.”

Mr Stelica said he had asked his brother Claudia Stelica, 35, to show the car to the “buyer” as a favour because he was out of London.

“I put the car on sale today and one guy called me on my phone,” he said.

“He didn’t seem suspicious on the phone, he was talking very nicely. I said to him ‘if you don’t want to wait for me, no problem’.”

‘Vital information’

Mr Stelica said his brother placed Maria inside the car as he demonstrated the engine, but the thief jumped in and drove off.

“He jumped up in the driver’s side and – boom – straight away he went with the car,” he added.

The man who took the car is described as Asian, of slim build and dressed in black clothing.

The Met has appealed for information and witnesses, particularly about whether a member of the public gave Maria the extra item of clothing.

“If this was you, please contact officers as you may hold vital information to this investigation – we can reassure you that you are not in any trouble,” they said.

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