When the runaways Natasha Phillips and Ashley Lamprey wandered into a shop to browse for CDs yesterday, they had no idea that police officers were upstairs looking for images of them from the store's CCTV cameras.
Staff at the HMV store in Milton Keynes recalled seeing Natasha, 12, and Ashley, 15, when pictures of the pair were broadcast on television on Wednesday night. They called the police, who went to the store to examine its security camera footage. While the police were there, the pair turned up again.
Last night Natasha and Ashley were facing a stern "talking to" as they returned home to their relieved families after two days on the run.
Ashley protested that he and his young girlfriend had been driven to such measures because no one would take their relationship seriously.His mother promised to welcome him home with his favourite deep-pan pizza.
The pair, who met three months ago while holidaying on the Greek island of Cephalonia, had continued to telephone and write to each other. On Tuesday they disappeared from their homes. Natasha had her passport, as proof of age for half-price travel. The pair met up in Hemel Hempstead before catching a train to Milton Keynes.
Yesterday while a tearful Karen Lamprey, 38, prepared to travel from her home in Ackworth, West Yorkshire, to be reunited with her son, she said: "I can't ever describe [the past 48 hours] to anybody. I just feel numb like it's not happening to me. I just need to get him in my arms. I need to just get down there to him now and give him a big hug and a cuddle. They are all right and that's the main thing."
Natasha's mother, Michelle Clark, 35, was equally emotional as she set off from her home on the Isle of Wight. "I asked her if she was OK and I told her I loved her very much. She got a bit upset and said that she loved me," she said.
Eileen Clark, 72, Natasha's step-grandmother, added: "It's going to be a tearful reunion when Natasha and her parents meet up but I guess Natasha will have a bit of a stern talking to as well."
Superintendent David Kilbride, of Hampshire Police, said: "Many of us are parents and would be concerned if we had a 12-year-old missing and it's only due to the mass media that we can get to them as quickly as we have done."
Last night the pair were taken from Milton Keynes police station to a secret location where both sets of families met. Ashley, his grandfather Ron revealed, had continued to insist that they were not prepared to be separated.
"One reason they did it is that nobody would believe the things he had been saying - his feelings for her. I tried to say that we've all had romances and it fizzles out and I expected this to be the same. I think that's what upset him," Mr Lamprey said.
He added: "He said, 'We've made a point' and he said, 'We just wanted to be together'. He was very chirpy. I promised him we'll sort it out."
For the time being at least, the youngsters appeared to have been granted their wish. Mrs Lamprey said: "There is no way in the world I am going to try to split them up."