A four-day nationwide manhunt came to an end today when a missing 14-year-old schoolgirl and the 35-year-old man she was believed to have disappeared with were found by police.
Teenager Lorna Vickerage and John Bush, a family friend, were spotted at Euston Station in London, a few hours after the girl’s mother had made an emotional appeal for her safe return.
An all ports alert had been put out by police after the schoolgirl disappeared from her home near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on Monday and in the final hours before the pair were found detectives had been increasingly worried that the pair would try to leave the country.
Bush was “jumped on” and arrested at Euston by plain clothes British Transport Police who had been issued with photographs of the missing pair. Lorna was last night described as “safe and well”.
Her parents were said to be “over the moon” that she had been found, with her mother, Christine Vickerage, posting on Facebook: “My gawgess lorna has just been found i am so happy.”
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Robinson, who led the hunt, was also deeply relieved: “I'm really pleased that it's come to such a pleasant conclusion, to be honest. You always fear the worst - that these things turn sour.”
He added: “I've personally spoken to the mother and father and updated them with proceedings so far. Lorna will probably be brought back at a later stage tonight or in the morning.
"They feel absolutely overwhelmed and over the moon. They can't say how much they want to thank everyone who's been involved. They're absolutely so appreciative, it's unbelievable.”
Until the sighting at Euston detectives had been trying to follow a trail that took the pair through several counties. Bush is believed to have passed off Lorna as his daughter. The girl was said by police to be “vulnerable”, was in local authority care and had been given a foster home on Friday.
Lorna and Bush were last known to have been in Doncaster on Tuesday, when they were seen together, but after a public appeal was made for the schoolgirl’s return other sightings were reported that took the pair ever closer to London.
The Ford Mondeo they were believed to have driven from Doncaster was abandoned in the village of Sproxton, near Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire, where they stayed for a night at the Crown Inn.
Chris Edmonson, owner of the B&B pub, said they had left without paying the bill and told Sky News: “The young girl looked fine, she was not distressed or anything. She looked safe. I thought it was his daughter. It was plausible.”
Subsequent sightings were reported in Peterborough and Watford, and police, who were “hot on the trail”, suspected they were heading to London and perhaps abroad.
On Thursday night the pair tried to check into a hotel in Watford at 11pm but the card Bush wanted to use was declined.
Mr Robinson said of the arrest of Bush yesterday afternoon: “He's gone to Euston station where two police officers from British Transport Police - who were working in plain clothes and were briefed and had photographs of these two on them - identified them. They jumped on John Bush and arrested him and took Lorna into care.
"So it's been a fantastic result. They're both safe and well."
Bush was understood to be on his way back to Doncaster last night for questioning. Lorna is expected to travel back to South Yorkshire today.
Shortly before the arrest, Lorna's mother made an emotional plea for her daughter's safe return. Speaking outside Doncaster police station, she said: ”John, if you're watching this, fetch our Lorna home. Lorna - you're in no trouble. Just come home, sweetheart."