Police who found the three boys who went missing four days ago said there may have been a plan to "spirit them out of the country."
They failed to return to their foster carers' home in Sunderland, after setting out on a tea-time bike ride to a local park.
Instead, they caught a Metro to Newcastle, then took a pre-booked taxi to London and spent two nights in the capital before heading for Birmingham.
Superintendent Alan Veitch, who led the major investigation to find them, said it was "entirely possible" that the plan was to get the boys out of the country.
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Kerrie brings you Saturday night's forecast
Sunderland suffer back-to-back relegations after last-gasp defeat to Burton Albion at the Stadium of Light
Dry, warm and sunny with sea breezes. Isolated heavy showers by evening and overnight