Frantic hunt for missing girl, 9

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The Independent Online
THE MOTHER of a nine-year-old girl who has been missing since Wednesday made an emotional appeal yesterday for the child's return.

Laura Kane vanished on anight of torrential rain. She waved goodbye to her mother Carol at 4pm on Wednesday, saying she was going to play with friends, but did not returned to her home in Penshaw, near Washington, Tyne and Wear. Laura was wearing distinctive clothing, and police are disturbed by a lack of sightings of the child.

As police and volunteers continued to scour the surrounding area in one of the north of England's most exhaustive searches for years, her 36-year- old mother described Laura as "a happy, bubbly, friendly child".

She added: "If anybody has seen her, or think they have seen her, please let police know. No one will get into trouble. I just want Laura back. All her family, all her brothers and sisters, want her to come home. We miss her terribly.

"[Laura] is a friendly girl who would believe what adults told her," Mrs Kane said, before she broke down and was led away by a policewoman.

Six search and rescue teams, consisting of around 60 volunteers, as well as more than 50 police officers, are searching for the child. An initial search of Penshaw village has been widened to include 18 square miles of woodland, fields and scrub.

Detective Superintendent Steve Bolam of Northumbria police said: "We have a nine-year-old vulnerable girl who has never been missing before, who has been away from home for 40 hours without equipment or clothing.

"We are very, very worried. On the night she went missing the weather was atrocious, with torrential rain falling. One thing that concerns us is the lack of confirmed sightings of Laura," Det Supt Bolam said.

The banks of the River Wear were being combed yesterday, while an underwater search team dragged nearby ponds, focussing on James Steel park, a landscaped area with a lake half a mile from Laura's home.

Land at the former Herrington Colliery on the fringe of Washington was proving particularly difficult to cover. The volunteers are using three dog teams, in addition to the dog and mounted police units. The volunteer leader, Andrew Miller said: "This operation is more difficult because there have been no sightings of the girl since she disappeared."

Mrs Kane had reported her daughter missing by 9pm on Wednesday. Laura, who is the youngest of seven children, was wearing an orange crop-top shirt, a white cardigan with multicoloured flecks, and pink flip-flop type shoes. The only possible sighting of Laura came at between 4.30pm and 4.45pm on the day she went missing. A girl wearing similar clothing was seen heading towards Penshaw Hill by a woman in a car.

Laura is described as 4ft 8in tall with long, dark brown hair, tied back at the time she went missing. She has a small scar on the right of her neck.