Missing schoolgirl and man, 46, pose as married couple

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The police hunt for a 14-year-old girl who has gone missing with a 46-year-old man was stepped up yesterday after they were seen posing as a married couple in a Blackpool hotel.

The discovery came to light three days after Stacey Champ was reported missing from her home in Gillingham, Kent, by her family. Police feared she had disappeared with David Milner, 46, a former colleague of her mother who had become friends with the family about 18 months ago.

They were reported yesterday to have spent two nights at the Central Hotel in Blackpool, where they had checked in as "Mr and Mrs Thomas", before leaving on Saturday. The schoolgirl and Mr Milner reportedly told fellow guests they were aged 22 and 37 and had been married for two years.

Julie Barton, who met the pair in Blackpool, told Sky News: "They introduced themselves as Stacey and Dave. They actually said they had been married for two years. She struck me as being quite immature for 22. She was holding his hand and giggling and she seemed quite lovestruck actually. But alarm bells did not ring. You take people at face value. She said she was 22 and Dave said he was 37."

Staff at the hotel, which is located in the heart of the seaside resort, also described how the pair seemed to resemble an "ordinary couple" who did not attract attention to themselves.

A cleaner, who would give her name only as Lena, said: "I could not believe it when they said she was 14. She looked a lot older than that to me. They just seemed to be another ordinary couple and I didn't notice any great age difference. I served them breakfast on the Friday and they seemed absolutely fine. She did not look like she was being held against her will or anything like that."

Police confirmed that they had found a white van in which the pair had disappeared. It was left at a railway station in Bristol. Forensic science examinations are being conducted on the vehicle, which they are thought to have abandoned on the day of their disappearance.

Claiming that "the net was closing in", police also revealed that Stacey and Mr Milner, who recently withdrew £1,000 from his bank account, are currently believed to be driving a red VW Golf, with the licence plate J804 LLD. The pair bought the car for £300 from a private dealer on the outskirts of Blackpool on Friday, according to police.

Airports and ports were in a state of high alert yesterday, amid concerns that the pair would try to leave the country.

Appealing for information, Inspector Richard Watson of Kent Police, who is heading the investigation, said at Rochester police station: "Where abouts are David and Stacey going to spend this evening? Where is this vehicle? Is this vehicle parked in your street? Where are they going to eat tonight? Are they eating at a restaurant? Are they staying at a bed and breakfast or hotel that you are staying in?

"We are very keen to trace them before Stacey spends another night away from home."

The developments came to light only a day after her mother, Angela Champ, made an emotional televised appeal for her daughter to return home or at least to let her know if she was safe. "Stacey, please just come home, I just want you home. You are not in any trouble," she said. "I love and I miss you. Max [the family cat] is missing you like hell. Just let me know that you are OK."

Mr Milner is described as slim, 5ft 8in, with short, dark hair, a "five o'clock shadow", black-rimmed, metal glasses and a Manchester accent. Stacey is 5ft 3in and has long brown hair with blond streaks. When she disappeared, she was wearing blue jeans, white Airtech trainers and a blue baseball cap, her family told the police.