A 24-year-old woman has been arrested and was being questioned at Warrington police station last night. Police would not confirm her name but no one else is being sought in connection with the incident.
Police said three-year-old Charlotte Jones was found "safe and well" by officers searching the area at around 9.30pm yesterday. A spokesman said they had been directed to the spot. Concerns for the child's safety had been expressed at a press conference earlier in the evening as the search for her proved fruitless.
The toddler was found fully clothed sitting among leaves in Burton wood near her home. She appeared unharmed but was receiving medical treatment and a full examination after spending the night outside in freezing temperatures. Police said she had not been restrained in any way and was simply sitting waiting for someone to come and get her.
She was reported missing by her mother, Michelle Jones, 24, at around 6pm on Monday, launching an extensive air and ground search involving police officers from Greater Manchester, North Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside.
Ms Jones, who is separated from her husband, told police she had been making dinner at her home in Warrington when she noticed her only child had vanished.
A police helicopter, sniffer dogs and underwater search units embarked on a huge search for the blonde-haired youngster.
Ms Jones said she had last seen her daughter at the gate of their house, waving goodbye to a social worker.
Detectives said they later spoke to the social worker who told them Charlotte was not at the gate as he left.
This afternoon a forensic examination tent was set up outside the Jones' home and police removed the family's black Vauxhall Astra for examination.
Police said earlier yesterday, before Charlotte was found, that the investigation had been widened beyond a simple search for the missing child.
A spokesman for Cheshire police had said: "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."
He later thanked the public, who had joined the search of the local area, for their help in finding the child.