The father of a 17-month-old girl who went missing earlier this afternoon when his car was stolen in east London has spoken of his relief after his little girl was found.
Maria Tudorica had been in the front passenger seat of her father’s Audi when her uncle met a potential buyer in Newham, east London, at 4.37pm.
The thief tricked him during a car viewing and got inside the car and accelerated away, leading police to issue an urgent manhunt for the little girl.
Metropolitan Police officers eventually found the toddler three hours later – just half a mile away from where she was taken on Nine Acres Close.
Her father, David, described the situation as ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’, and told the Sun his little girl was ‘perfect’ despite her ordeal.
He said: ‘I am so happy right now – I feel like I have been born again.
‘Maria was crying at first but is now back with her family and is healthy and happy. The baby is perfect.’
Police have found Maria Tudorica, pictured, three hours after she went missing when her father’s car was stolen in Newham, east London
Maria, pictured, had been sitting in the front passenger seat when her uncle met the buyer from Gumtre
The would-be buyer jumped into the car and drove off from Nine Acres Close (pictured) at 4.37pm
Police confirmed they found the girl on Ruskin Avenue on Twitter at around 8pm.
Claudia Stelica reportedly met the prospective buyer on behalf of Maria’s father, David, after the man responded to a listing on the website Gumtree.
David had been hundreds of miles from London when told about the theft, but began driving home immediately after hearing the news.
He told the Daily Mirror last night: ‘We are extremely relieved that she has been found. I am still heading home now … I am in contact with the police to establish what exactly happened.’
Maria had been placed in the passenger seat during a demonstration of the car’s engine. The prospective buyer then said he wanted a test drive, according to another of Maria’s uncles, Gheorghe.
Police confirmed they found the girl on Ruskin Avenue on Twitter at around 8pm
‘He jumped up in the driver’s side and – boom – straight away he went,’ the car trader said.
He praised the emergency services following news of Maria’s safe recovery last night. ‘God bless. I feel born again,’ he said. ‘I feel relieved 1,000 times over. [My brother] thanks so much the police for their service.’
Claudia Stelica met the thief on a quiet street of terraced housing, with the car eventually found abandoned a mile away without Maria inside.
David told the Sun: ‘This has been every parent’s worst nightmare not knowing if she is OK or not.
‘It’s terrible and I would appeal to the man who took the car to come forward.’
Earlier this evening, police were forced to issue an urgent appeal to find the little girl, who is Romanian, saying she is from the local area and was wearing a white top and red bottoms.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted: ‘Delighted to report that missing child Maria Tudorica aged 17months has now been found safe and well in the Ruskin Avenue, E12 area’
Metropolitan police also revealed the man who took the car was described as an Asian man of slim build, dressed in black clothing.
At around 8pm, the Metropolitan Police tweeted: ‘Delighted to report that missing child Maria Tudorica aged 17months has now been found safe and well in the Ruskin Avenue, E12 area.
‘Thanks to media and all members of the public who have helped with this appeal.’
Newham is one of the most troubled areas in the capital. It had more murder investigations than any other London borough in 2017, while violent crime increased almost 7.5 per cent year-on-year according to the Newham Recorder.
Scotland Yard have not said whether or not they have apprehended a suspect.
Police are urging anyone with information about the stolen car to call 999 immediately.
You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111 or tweet the police via @MetCC.