Police have called off a huge search for a young girl who was feared to have been abducted from a shopping centre in Brighton.
Sussex Police had said it was investigating “a report of a possible child abduction” outside Churchill Square on Monday afternoon. The report sparked a frantic hunt for the child including a police helicopter and an appeal through the media.
The force said a member of the public had reported seeing a man picking up a small child and walking away with her at the junction of Western Road and Clarence Square between 3.10pm and 3.20pm.
However, no child had been reported missing.
Police released CCTV images of a man aged about 70 crouching beside a girl, believed to be aged between three and five.
It is understood that CCTV footage appeared to show the girl on her own before the man approached.
“It is hoped that family and friends may be able to recognise them and to help clarify what happened,” the spokeswoman said when the appeal was first released.
But later, at 12.26am on Tuesday, Sussex Police posted on Twitter to say: “Mystery solved – little girl thought to have been abducted in #Brighton is safe and sound, and asleep, at home – thanks to all who helped spread the word.”
Hundreds of Brighton taxi drivers had received an alert asking them look out for the man and the girl, local newspaper The Argus reported.
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