Police widen hunt for missing girl

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POLICE HUNTING for the toddler who disappeared after waving goodbye to a visitor with her mother were last night investigating "other possibilities" surrounding her disappearance.

Three-year-old Charlotte Jones was last seen by her mother on Monday tea-time as they stood at the gate of their home after saying goodbye to a male friend. Charlotte is described as 3ft 4in tall, with waist- length blonde hair tied in a pony tail. She was wearing white leggings with black 101 Dalmatian spots and a Winnie the Pooh sweater.

Her mother, Michelle Jones, 24, was making dinner at the semi-detached council house in Warrington, Cheshire, when she noticed her only child had vanished.

At 6pm she telephoned Cheshire police who mounted an extensive air and ground search involving officers from Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside.

More than 60 officers carried out house-to-house enquiries and an underwater team searched the nearby Sankey canal which runs about 200 yards from the rear of the family home. Dogs were deployed on the canal banks and in nearby woodland.

A spokesman for Cheshire police said last night: "We must now acknowledge that the scope of the search has extended and must consider other possibilities beyond the fact that she has simply strayed away from home."

Detective Chief Inspector Tim Jackson, who is heading the inquiry, said the man who was leaving the house at the time of Charlotte's disappearance had been questioned by officers but ruled out of the inquiry. It is understood that he called at the home in a semi-professional capacity.

Police towed away a black Vauxhall Astra car belonging to Ms Jones for forensic examinations and erected a tent in the garden to protect equipment used in further forensic tests.

Ms Jones last saw her daughter at 5.15pm on Monday. "She (Charlotte) was saying bye-bye to her friend who had just left the house. I had come back in and was looking in the kitchen for something to eat for her tea. She must have been out there ten or fifteen minutes. When I went out she had gone," she said.

Police said they were unable to comment on whether Charlotte's father, from whom Ms Jones is understood to be separated, had been informed of her disappearance.