A mum has defended a playgroup despite it allowing her three-year-old son to go missing and walk a mile and a half home.
Cain Trainor went walkabout from the Little Owls playgroup in Middlesbrough at 3.20pm on Tuesday February 3.
He crossed roads and cycle paths and went through woodland before he found his way home.
But mum Gemma only found out he was missing after the playgroup called her.
The mum-of-two raced to the playgroup to find distraught staff in tears.
Gemma told the Gazette: "I had no reception on my phone but when I got outside, I saw the school and Little Owls had been trying to call me several times.
"They started the conversation with something like 'I don't want to worry you but we seem to have lost Cain'.
"I felt sick - there aren't words to describe that feeling of something terrible happening which is totally out of your control. I rushed to the school and when I got there, they were all in tears.
"The headteacher came running over, saying they didn't know what had happened. Then within seconds, I got a phone call from my next door neighbour saying Cain had arrived home. I burst into tears with relief."
But far from being angry at the playgroup, Gemma, 31, said: "The nursery couldn't apologise enough and said they would put in various safeguards to ensure it wouldn't happen again, so at least something positive has come out of this in terms of security.
"I certainly wouldn't want them slated."
Cain had only just transferred to Little Owls from a previous nursery, Gemma said. "We moved him because it's on the grounds of the school. It was cheaper, he likes it, his little best friend goes there - it all made sense really."
She added: "Most kids would have cried or screamed, but it looks like he's just thought 'I can't find who I'm meant to be with, I know where I want to go, so I'll go'.
"In a funny way, I'm actually quite proud that he managed to find his way home.
"We've talked to him about 'stranger danger' but I was surprised he went that way because we hardly ever go there. We've told him not go down there in case there are 'mucky misters' around.
"When I got back from the school, the first thing he told me was 'I used the lollipop lady'. He even dropped in at the Sainsbury's shop to see if I was in there buying milk.
"But when he was cuddled into me that night, I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking of what could have happened."
In a statement, Little Owls playgroup manager Kate Murphy expressed gratitude that Cain's family had been 'entirely understanding of what happened' and that they continue to send Cain there.
She added: "We are always looking at all our safeguarding procedures and policies and will be working with Ofsted and Middlesbrough Council in order that we always have best practices in place."