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Toddler snatched in Manor Park car theft ‘may have been given extra clothing by thief’

PUBLISHED: 09:44 07 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:56 07 January 2019

The car was found abandoned in  Hathaway Crescent. Pic: Google

The car was found abandoned in Hathaway Crescent. Pic: Google

Archant

Police believe a 17-month-old girl who was snatched in Manor Park along with the car she was sitting in may have been given extra clothing by the suspect before she was abandoned yesterday evening.

Maria Tudorica was sitting in a passenger seat of an Audi A5 when a man - purporting to be interested in buying the vehicle – drove off with the car in Nine Acres Close at around 4.30pm.

The car was ditched without the child as police searched frantically and the tot was found “safe and well” just before 8pm.

Officers said today that Maria was found wearing “an additional item of clothing” in addition to a white top and red trousers she had on at the time.

A met police spokesman said: “Officers believe that either the suspect put the clothing on the child before abandoning her, or that a member of the public dressed her due to the cold, but who at the time did not wish to contact police.”

Her car trader uncle, Gheorghe Stelica, told the Press Association he felt “born again” after learning she had been located.

Earlier that day, he had asked his brother, 35-year-old Claudia Stelica, who is Maria’s father, to show the car to the prospective buyer as a favour because he was out of London.

“I put the car on sale today and one guy called me on my phone,” the trader said.

“He didn’t seem suspicious on the phone, he was talking very nicely. I said to him, ‘If you don’t want to wait for me, no problem.”’

The father met the stranger outside his brother’s home in Nine Acres Close and placed the girl in the black car as he demonstrated the engine. But then the supposed customer asked to try it.

“He jumped up in the driver’s side and - boom - straight away he went with the car,” Gheorghe Stelica said.

The family were in pieces.

Teacher Nazneen Saleh, a 25-year-old visiting her parents in the street, said a woman she believed was Maria’s grandmother was in a “frenzy”.

The car was listed on Gumtree for £4,650.

The suspect is a slim Asian man dressed in black clothing.

Anyone with information should call the police or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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