Missing schoolgirl Aaliyah Chen has been found, police have confirmed.
It came after relatives accused the Metropolitan Police of bungling the search following her disappeared on Sunday evening.
The 15-year-old was believed to have left through a window in her family home in south London’s Sidcup, after giving her mother a goodnight kiss on the cheek and going to her bedroom around 9.30pm. By 12.55am she was on a 51 bus travelling across London.
Her distressed family claimed officers could have stop Aaliyah escaping with an older man just hours before she disappeared at the weekend.
On Thursday, the Met confirmed she had been found in woods in Croydon, south London, and a 23-year-old man had been arrested.
The force said Aaliyah was taken to a hospital as a precaution but is “reported to be safe and well”.
Aaliyah’s family contacted the Guardian about their concerns after reading that the Met were already under investigation by the police watchdog for their handling of the Richard Okorogheye case.
Okorogheye, 19, went missing from London home in Ladbroke Grove back in March. The case was not considered high risk until he had been missing for six days; his body was later found in Epping Forest, Essex.
His mother Evidence Joel has been very vocal about her frustration towards the police investigation.
She told Sky News: “I told a police officer that my son was missing, please help me find him, and she said: ‘If you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’”
Police initially misclassified Aaliyah’s case as one of medium risk after the family told the authorities she had been talking to an older man on Snapchat for four months in February.
Aaliyah’s case was only recently pushed up to a high risk category after the family lobbied a senior officer in person this week.
Aaliyah’s mother Obaida Chen told The Guardian: “Aaliyah, please come home if you see this. We love you and miss you, you are not in any trouble at all. I just wish the police had acted earlier.”
Aaliyah’s aunt Laura Rushe claimed: “The first 36 hours felt like they [the police] were wasted. Information we provided was not given to the search team.”
She added: “We have told the Met we will put an official complaint in.”
The family claim officers promised at 7.30am on Monday to visit all the addresses linked to the man but hours later, the police said it had not yet happened.
The Met earlier released a statement saying it was “aware of concerns raised by Aaliyah’s family regarding the initial response and ongoing investigation into her disappearance”.
On Thursday it said: “Police officers have located Aaliyah Chen, 15, who was reported as missing from south east London.
“She was found at 11.54am in a wooded area in Croydon.
“She was taken to a south London hospital as a precaution but is reported to be safe and well. Her family have been updated.
“A 23-year-old man was arrested at the scene in connection with her disappearance and is in police custody.
“Police remain at the scene and a crime scene is in place. Enquiries are ongoing.”