Updated: Toddler found safe after being snatched inside dad's Audi as it was stolen

A 17-month-old girl snatched along with a car her father was selling on Gumtree has been found "safe and well".

Sunday, 6th January 2019, 8:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 11:45 am
Maria Tudricai, a 17-month-old girl who was inside her father's black Audi car when it was stolen in Newham, east London

Police were searching for Maria Tudorica in east London on Sunday afternoon after a prospective buyer for the Audi A5 drove off with the vehicle while she was inside.

Maria's father met with the stranger in Manor Park, east London, shortly before 4.40pm on Sunday with a view to selling the car.

But the suspect leapt into the vehicle and drove away from Nine Acres Close, with Maria sitting in the front passenger seat, officers said.

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The scene in Nine Acres Close, Newham, east London, as police are searching for a 17-month-old girl, Maria Tudorica, who was abducted by a man as he stole her father's car

The black car was found abandoned nearby in Hathaway Crescent without the child but Maria was later found safe and well in nearby Ruskin Avenue.

Maria's uncle Gheorghe Stelica said he was trying to sell the car on Gumtree when it was stolen with his niece inside.

Maria's uncle Gheorghe Stelica celebrated the girl being found.

"God bless," the 25-year-old car trader told the Press Association. "I feel born again."

He continued: "I feel am a new guy.

"I feel over 1,000-times relief.

"(My brother) he's happy. He thanks so much the police for their service."

The 25-year-old car trader said he was outside London at the time the prospective buyer called so he got his brother, 35-year-old Claudia Stelica, to show him the car.

But, he said, after his brother let the stranger try the engine he drove off with Maria inside.

Car trader Gheorghe told the Press Association: "I put the car on sale today and one guy called me on my phone.

"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.'

"He said he didn't want to see the car in the dark in case there's a scratch."

He said his brother placed Maria on the seat as he demonstrated the engine. Then the man wanted to test it for himself.

"My brother left his girl on the seat and started the engine to show him the car. He said let me check the engine a bit, he passed him the car and he entered the car and straight away ran," he said.

"He jumped up in the driver's side and - boom - straight away he went with the car.

"After that I received a call from my brother saying, 'Call the police your car was stolen.'"