Police are hunting for thieves who stole a car with a two-year-old girl inside, leaving her family terrified.
The car was found shortly afterwards with the toddler safely inside but the family's cat, which was also inside the vehicle, hasn't been found.
Police said the incident happened in Quarrington Hill, near Durham City, County Durham, at about 7pm on Wednesday (21 September).
The family had parked their silver Vauxhall Vectra outside a relative’s house to drop some shopping off, leaving the engine running and the two-year-old strapped into a car seat while one member of the family stood by the car door and others took items inside.
A dark Nissan X-Trail drove slowly past then reversed back along the street to pull alongside the Vauxhall and a man, dressed in a blue hooded jacket and black joggers, jumped out and climbed into the driver’s seat, taking off at speed as the distressed family tried to stop him.
The Vectra was found about three miles away around Sherburn Beck, near Ludworth, with the toddler unharmed.
She was reunited with her family but their pet cat, which was also in the vehicle at the time, has yet to be found.
The Nissan X-Trail has not been located, police said.
Detective Inspector Malcolm Bell, of Durham Constabulary, said: "This has been an extremely distressing incident for the family, who were terrified for the welfare of their child. We are appealing to anyone who may have seen this car being stolen or abandoned to come forward.
"We are also looking for anyone who may have seen the Nissan X-Trail at the time, or in immediate time before and after this incident. Thankfully, the child was located inside the car, safe and well, and was quickly reunited with her family."