Missing stolen car toddler found safe and well

Maria Tudorica has been found safe and well Credit: Metropolitan Police

A 17-month-old girl who went missing after the car she was sat in was stolen has been found safe and well.

Maria Tudorica was sat in her father's car in Newham, east London, when a man jumped into the vehicle and drove away.

The car was found abandoned less than a mile away in Hatherway Crescent a short time later, but Maria was not inside it.

The toddler was found several hours later at 7.50pm in nearby Ruskin Avenue, less than half a mile from where the car was found.

Maria was not inside the stolen car when it was found abandoned. Credit: Metropolitan Police

The child's father had met with an unknown man in Nine Acres Close shortly after 4.35pm on Sunday with a view to selling the black Audi A5.

The man who took the car, with a registration number of FY58 UAZ, is described as an Asian man of slim build, dressed in black clothing.

Maria's car trader uncle, Gheorghe Stelica, said he felt "born again" after the youngster was found.

Mr Stelica said earlier on Sunday he had asked his brother, 35-year-old Claudia Stelica, to show the car to the prospective 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," the trader 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."'

Maria's father met the stranger outside his brother's home in Nine Acres Close and placed the girl in the black car as he demonstrated the engine, but then the supposed customer asked to try it.

"He jumped up in the driver's side and - boom - straight away he went with the car," Gheorghe Stelica said.

Police are still appealing for anyone with information on the incident to contact them on 101.

Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.