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Kidnapped girl found alive after 8 months

A girl aged 15 who was kidnapped at gunpoint from her bedroom nearly eight months ago was found yesterday after two women recognised the alleged kidnapper in a town near Salt Lake City.

Elizabeth Smart was discovered in the car of Brian Mitchell, a drifter known as Emmanuel, who had carried out work on her family home.

A police spokeswoman said they pulled over Mr Mitchell, another woman and a girl who looked like Elizabeth after the women said they thought they saw Emmanuel in Sandy.

Last month, Elizabeth's parents announced a new reward for information and asked for help in their search for Emmanuel. They released a sketch of the man. The Smarts said Elizabeth's sister, Mary Katherine, had recently said Emmanuel bore some resemblance to the man who took Elizabeth from the room at gunpoint.

Elizabeth was 14 when she was seized in front of her sister, aged nine, who pretended to be asleep. Mary Katherine said she heard the man threaten to hurt Elizabeth if the older girl made any noise.

The chiefsuspect in the kidnapping was Richard Albert Ricci, a handyman who once worked in the Smart household. But he died last August after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage while in prison on a parole violation. He said he had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

Investigators said they believed he was involved in the abduction but may not have acted alone.