Two girls, aged 13 and 14, admitted at a North Shields youth court today to kidnapping a toddler from a Primark store in Newcastle.
The pair, aged 13 and 14, appeared at a youth court in North Shields, North Tyneside, to admit abducting the girl from the Newcastle branch of the budget fashion chain on April 13.
The two-year-old was reunited with her mother an hour and 45 minutes later after the girls were tracked by CCTV camera operators to a park three miles away in Gosforth.
They had been charged with kidnap with the intention of committing a relevant sexual offence but the prosecution accepted a plea to the alternative charge of kidnap.
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."
Chief Supt Young said police were immediately put into action the moment the missing girl report came in.
"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," she said.
"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 it's 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."