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Two teen girls locked up after kidnapping toddler from busy shop

Two teen girls locked up after kidnapping toddler from busy shop

Two teenagers who kidnapped a toddler from a Primark store have been detained for three years and three months.

Mr Justice Globe concluded that the girls, aged 13 and 14, took the two-year-old girl from her mother and serious harm to the child was foreseeable.

Sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, he told them the toddler was at risk of physical or sexual violence, and/or exploitation.

He was referring to internet searches made on a tablet belonging to the younger defendant.

He said: "The internet history shows hundreds of searches in relation to pornographic topics which include children having sex, rape, slavery and abduction."

The judge initially sentenced them to three years and four months but took a month off, having heard they have been subject to a curfew since they pleaded guilty to kidnap.

He concluded that the kidnapped child was at risk of serious harm having heard of troubling internet searches about rape and exploitation found on a tablet computer.

The younger of the defendants, who are aged just 13 and 14, had been groomed by an unknown man and swapped sexual messages on the chat site ooVoo, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Both had tried to claim that they abducted the two-year-old on April 13 from the city-centre store in Newcastle following pressure from a third party. But police found there was no evidence of anyone else being involved in the kidnap which resulted in the little girl coming to no harm.

The girls had already tried to entice another two-year-old from her mother in the same shop where they had spent many hours that day. They tried to trick the mother into looking in the wrong part of the children's section of the store when they tried to kidnap her girl.

Sarah Barlow, prosecuting, said the girls found their kidnap victim at 4pm.

"They offered her sweets. That's indicative of the level of planning, they had taken with them things likely to attract a child to them.

"They were playing with her. (The toddler) was running to and from the girls.

"Her mother was not suspicious, she simply thought the girls were playing with her daughter and were being quite sweet. This went on for some 15 minutes."

After they successfully grabbed the other child, her mother banged her head against a wall in the store and was "utterly distraught" when she realised her daughter had been taken.

Ms Barlow said the CCTV from the lift showed the girls looking anxious, indicating "they knew at that stage what they were doing was wrong".

CCTV captured the moment the toddler walked out of Primark holding hands with the older girl.

On the Metro system, witnesses saw them giving the girl sweets and offered her Coca-Cola.

One of them was overheard saying: "Don't worry, we will get you to your mummy."

Ms Barlow added: "Of course she was not, she was travelling in the opposite direction."

They travelled from the city centre to Gosforth, where a police officer tracked the group down to a park.

They had given her sweets, Coca-Cola and stole dummies, milk and a bottle for the girl.

She was reunited with her mother after two hours following a major search operation involving CCTV checks across the city.

After the girls were arrested, the younger girl's tablet was analysed, Ms Barlow said.

Of 1,185 internet searches made since she got the device for Christmas, 402 were of a pornographic nature.

"It began with searches in relation to teenagers having sex, kids having sex, it moved on to topics such as forced sex, slavery, girls collected and trained, torment, people getting raped, children having sex, also searches in relation to abduction and dragged into a van and raped."

Weeks before the kidnapping, her mother noticed the tablet was ringing at night and found "vile" pornographic images on it, and the girl told her she had been contacted by a man.

The police and her school were informed.

Julie Clemitson, defending the younger girl, said her client had been sexually exploited, adding: "She is a damaged, vulnerable young girl."

Andrew Walker, for the older defendant, said she had displayed maternal instincts through her life and had never harmed a child.

She said a man she referred to as "Nazzer" told them to take a child and she claimed he was with them on the day the toddler was taken. Extensive checks of hours of CCTV showed that was a lie, the court heard. Police were convinced they acted alone.

Neither girl had a criminal record.

Ms Clemitson stressed the girls had not sought to hide the toddler, and appeared to refer to the case of toddler James Bulger, who was snatched in a shopping centre.

She said: "The court is well aware that there has been children, fortunately very rare instances, who have been prepared to do wicked things to other children, to take them off and do wicked things."

Mr Justice Globe, who was a junior counsel in the prosecution of Bulger case, said: "The reality is that those children also were also taken through shopping centres and public streets, in the full gaze of many members of the public."

Witnesses reported seeing the little girl being swung, played with and carried by the kidnappers.

They pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to a charge of kidnap and shop lifting.

The judge declined to lift an order preventing the defendants from being named.

The mother of the toddler suffered "extensive psychological harm", the judge said.

She banged her head against a wall of the Primark store when she realised her child had been snatched.

Mr Justice Globe, sentencing the teenagers, told them: "I bear in mind no actual physical harm was caused to (the girl) in the two hours she was with you before she was found.

"However, extensive psychological harm was done to her mother.

"One can only imagine what she went through when she found that her two-year-old baby was missing from the shopping centre.

"She continued understandably to have nightmares about what happened and about what might have happened.

"She won't let her out of her sight any more.

"She's constantly worrying about her and other children."

Newcastle Crown Court heard the girl remembers little of the ordeal and was not physically harmed.

After the case, the toddler's father said their sentence of three years and three months detention was "the right thing to do".

He added: "The most important thing from my point of view is to be thankful to the police and public for helping to find my daughter as quickly as they did.

"I hope that this is long enough for them to reflect on their offence and to make them safe around children in the future."