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I want my girl home.

Byline: Gareth Lightfoot

A distraught mum today made an emotional appeal for the safe return of her daughter who vanished with her older cousin.

Police are treating the disappearance as child abduction, although they say the teenager left home voluntarily.

It is thought Margaret Marie O'Brien, 14, from Thornaby, could have fled to Scotland with her 23-year-old cousin, who has not been named.

Police have alerted forces across the country, and airports and ports, and are stepping up their search for the missing teenager - who took her passport with her.

Her mother Catherine pleaded: "All we want is for Margaret to come back home. She won't get into trouble. All we want is her back safe and sound."

Margaret sparked a major search when she left home at 8.30am on Good Friday.

Detective Superintendent Shane Sellers, leading the search, said the disappearance seems to be out of character and there doesn't appear to be a known reason for it.

He told the Gazette the girl went willingly with her cousin, with whom she was close, but there was no evidence of a sexual relationship.

"They appeared to have become closer recently. My understanding is that Margaret moved or left home on Friday morning to be with him.

"The extent of the relationship I won't know until I speak to Margaret when she is back with her parents. There is no evidence to suggest it is of a sexual nature."

The events came as a bolt from the blue for her distraught family, of Vulcan Way, Thornaby.

A woman who answered the door at the house yesterday declined to speak about the disappearance.

"Her mother was quite surprised and shocked that her daughter had disappeared. It is not something she's done before," said Det Supt Sellers.

"They would like her home as soon as possible. They say she's done nothing wrong and to contact them or police, locally or wherever she is, so we can retrieve her and bring her back to the family home. We are particularly concerned about the fact she's gone missing.

"Although she appears to have gone voluntarily we are treating it as child abduction because this girl has been taken from the custody and control of her parents. She is vulnerable because of her age.

"One of our lines of inquiry is to look in Scotland. Margaret doesn't have any links there as far as I'm aware but the man may have relatives there.

"We will be looking at other areas. We are mindful of the fact she has her passport. I don't think she has gone abroad. I think she is still in the UK and I'm confident we will find her."

Margaret is 5ft 4ins, slim build, with fair hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing distinctive jewellery, large gold, twisted hoop earrings and a diamantA letter M. She was dressed in a pink bomber jacket, blue jeans and high heel boots.

Local residents yesterday said Margaret was often seen with friends in the area. Anyone with information is urged to call police on 01642 302387 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2005
Words:521
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