Kidnap girls found safe

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Three 16-year-old girls abducted in north Devon were finally reunited with their families last night. The girls, all from the Torrington area, were found in South Petherton, near Yeovil, Somerset, more than 24 hours after they were last seen.

Police said the girls made contact from a telephone kiosk.

Last night Alan Tomkins, 33, was arrested in connection with the abduction of three teenage girls after his Peugeot car was stopped on the M4 near Bristol.

North Devon CID will investigate what happened to the girls after they set out with Mr Tomkins in his car. He failed to take them for a planned meal in a nearby town.

Police had earlier said that there was "extreme concern" for the safety of the girls - Mr Tomkins's stepdaughter Hanna, who lived with him in Torrington, and her two friends, Amy Sands, also of Torrington, and Laura Hill, of St Giles in the Wood, near Torrington.

It had been arranged that Mr Tomkins, the girls and a 16-year-old boy would go for a meal in Barnstaple, with the knowledge of parents, police said. But shortly after they left Torrington at 7.30pm on Friday, the atmosphere in the car "deteriorated" and the boy was ejected at Beam Quarry, where Mr Tomkins works.

The alarm was raised, but extensive inquiries, including searches by helicopters and aeroplanes, failed to find any trace of the car or occupants. Police forces nationwide were alerted and a watch was put on ports and airports.