Runaway schoolgirl spotted on channel ferry

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The Independent Online

A schoolgirl who police fear has run away with a man she met on the internet has been spotted on a ferry travelling to France, police said today.

Police believe Laura Stainforth is with a man called Robert Williams, 49, who she met online.

Humberside Police said Laura, 15, was seen on the Pride of Kent ferry which was travelling from Dover to Calais last Thursday afternoon.

Laura was last seen by her parents when she left home to go to the shops at about 3.30pm on Wednesday last week.

She was reported missing by her family at 9.23pm that night.

The teenager, from Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, and Williams were captured on CCTV footage at Grimsby railway station on Wednesday evening.

Detectives believe they took a train to Doncaster, South Yorkshire, before travelling to London, and on to Dover.

Laura was then spotted by a member of the public in Dover the following day.

Officers now have many unconfirmed sightings in different areas of the UK and France.

It is understood Williams is on police bail pending a rape investigation by Durham Police.

Detective Chief Inspector Sharon Fielding, from Humberside Police, said: "Our main concern is finding Laura. That is why we released the details of the man we believe she is with.

"We appreciate all the calls we are getting from members of the public and each significant piece of information is being followed up.

"At this time we have conflicting information as to where she is and I am keeping an open mind as to her location.

"Although we know she was in Dover and she was on that ferry, we do not know if she stayed in Calais, travelled further into France or Europe or returned to the UK.

"We are working closely with other police forces in the UK, Interpol, the National Missing Persons Bureau, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and others.

"At this time we are following numerous lines of inquiry."

Yesterday, the parents of the schoolgirl made a direct appeal to their daughter, urging her to contact them.

Debra and Robert Stainforth released a statement through Humberside Police.

It said: "To Laura, this message comes from Mam and Dad.

"Please contact us as we miss you.

"You are not in trouble; we just want to be able to see you and hug you and try and help you.

"And your brother misses you too.

"Please contact us or the police, or please let us know you are well and safe.

"Lots of love from Mam and Dad."