A six-year-old girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert and frantic overnight search in North Battleford on Sunday was safe and sound at home by Monday at noon.
Early Monday morning, RCMP reported that the six-year-old girl was found in North Battleford around 6:45 a.m., more than 12 hours after she initially went missing at 5 p.m. Sunday, when an SUV was stolen from a parking lot by a strip mall while she was still inside. Police said it did not appear to be a targetted crime against the family, but rather one of opportunity.
The little girl, who has autism and epilepsy, was found in the yard of Bernie’s Grain Handling in the city’s industrial area and was immediately taken to the hospital for medical attention.
RCMP confirmed she was reunited with her family there and released from the hospital.
The girl’s mother took to Facebook Monday expressing gratitude to everyone who took part in the search for her daughter.
“(She) is safe at home sleeping soundly, peacefully, surrounded by all the love in the world. The relief is indescribable,” she wrote.
Officers at the scene were smiling as they collected evidence Monday morning, describing the outcome as the best case scenario.
Security footage from the scene shown to 650 CKOM appeared to show someone abandoning the vehicle at the shop yard around 5:15 p.m.
RCMP say vehicle theft appeared to be ‘crime of opportunity’
The RCMP held a press conference late Monday morning explaining that employees at Bernie’s Grain Handling spotted the stolen SUV parked in the yard early Monday and called police.
RCMP Cpl. Rob King said now the girl has been found, police could now turn their full attention to tracking down whoever stole the SUV.
With investigators still in the early stages of looking over security footage and evidence collected from the vehicle, King said it was still too early to say exactly what happened.
“We don’t know what happened from when the car was taken until the car was found. We don’t know the direction of travel, we don’t know where it travelled, we don’t how many people were in the car at the time while it was driving around.”
King said it didn’t appear the family had been targeted.
“The basic initial thing is it was more like it was a stolen vehicle of opportunity and there happened to be a child in the backseat. But that’s speculation at this point,” he said.
Residents share feelings of relief with girl found unharmed
More than 100 people joined in the search for the girl once the news broke that she’d been abducted.
Jody Raiche was among them. He told 650 CKOM he was out on his quad checking back roads and ditches until about 2:30 a.m. Monday morning.
“If you were in that situation, you’d want people out helping you, right? Everybody has to pitch together,” he said, choking back tears as he learned the girl had been found safe.
Raiche said he was surprised to learn she’d been found at Bernie’s, saying he’d checked the area during the search, as had his wife and another group of searchers. He said snow falling at the time likely obscured people’s view of the SUV.
“I walked the perimeter with a flashlight last night, but it was snowing really hard at that point.”