An investigation is underway after a car was stolen from outside a County Durham home with a two-year-old girl inside.
The youngster was found safe and well a few minutes later, a spokesperson for Durham Police said.
Officers are investigating the incident, which happened in Church Street, Quarrington Hill, near Durham on Wednesday 21 September.
It happened at about 7pm, when a family parked its silver Vauxhall Vectra outside a relative’s house to drop shopping off and a dark Nissan X-Trail pulled up in the street and drove slowly past.
A Durham Police spokesperson said: "The engine of the Vauxhall was still running while one member of the family stood by the car door and others took items inside.
"The suspect vehicle then reversed back along the street to pull alongside the Vauxhall and a man, dressed in a blue hooded jacket and black joggers, jumped out and climbed into the driver’s seat, with the two-year-old strapped into a car seat in the rear.
"He then took off at speed as the distressed family tried to stop him."
The Vectra was discovered about three miles away around Sherburn Beck, near Ludworth.
The girl was physically unharmed and was quickly reunited with her family, however, their pet cat, which was also in the vehicle at the time, has yet to be located.
The Nissan X-Trail has not been located.
Detective Inspector Malcolm Bell, of Durham Police, said: “This has been an extremely distressing incident for the family, who were terrified for the welfare of their child.
“We are appealing to anyone who may have seen this car being stolen or abandoned to come forward.
“We are also looking for anyone who may have seen the Nissan X-Trail at the time, or in immediate time before and after this incident.
“Thankfully, the child was located inside the car, safe and well, and was quickly reunited with her family.”
Anyone with any information or dash cam/CCTV footage is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Andy Davison, of Durham Constabulary, on 101, quoting incident reference 341 of 21 September.
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