4-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Cleethorpes at 4.30am
WHAT was a four-year-old child doing wandering the streets of Cleethorpes alone in the early hours of the morning?
That is the question a shocked factory worker was left asking after he found a "tiny, little girl" walking down the busy Grimsby Road, in Cleethorpes, at 4.30am.
Wearing only pink pyjamas and clutching her pink elephant soft toy, the trusting tot was found by Paul Collier outside the Tesco Express, on the corner of Daubney Street, braving the recent wet and windy weather.
Thought to be called Jessica or Jasmine, she told Mr Collier, 58 – who described finding her as "distressing and shocking" – that her mummy was asleep and she was looking for a drink.
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Mr Collier, a transport supervisor at M and J Seafood, in Grimsby, was taking a work colleague home after his nightshift when he noticed the child. He stopped the car abruptly and called Humberside Police for help and officers arrived in minutes.
He said: "I couldn't believe it. Where were her parents and how did she get out of the house?
"It was ridiculous, it could have been anyone who picked her up. This little girl was so trusting I think she would have got in anyone's car. I was in absolute shock more than anything else. It just felt like a dream."
It is not clear where the little girl had come from but the police returned her to her mother shortly after getting Mr Collier's call and are now working with North East Lincolnshire social services to find out how she came to be on the streets.
A Humberside Police spokesperson said: "Police were called at 4.30am by a member of the public who found a small child in the streets of Cleethorpes. The child was, after a short time, returned to her home address and mother's safety.
"Officers are now working with social services to establish the circumstances of the incident."
Mr Collier, of Hildyard Street, returned to work once he knew the girl was safe to shocked colleagues who also want answers as to why she was there.
"No one would believe me," added Mr Collier.
"My wife was livid when I told her, she couldn't believe a child so young would be able to get out and walk the streets alone.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it all day afterwards... all the 'what-ifs'. Imagine if I hadn't stopped and then I heard a child had gone missing.
"I could never forgive myself – although there were a lot of cars on the road that didn't stop.
"She was such a chatty, jolly, little girl which made me think she might not have been taught not to talk to strangers and that's what scared me the most. I am just glad it was me who stopped and no one else."
A council spokesperson confirmed: "We are aware of an incident concerning a small child and can report an investigation into the matter is underway."