THREE city men have been arrested on suspicion of abduction after a 14-year-old girl went missing. The schoolgirl disappeared from her home in Exeter for six days before she was discovered by police.
After growing concerns by police for the safety of the young girl, detectives from Exeter CID were joined by neighbourhood officers and the force's Tactical Support Group in an operation to locate the missing teenager.
Information received by officers led to the arrest of three men, aged in their 40s, on suspicion of child abduction.
The girl was discovered later the same day at a city property linked to a man in his 20s.
Investigating officer, Acting Detective Sergeant Adrian Hawkins said: "A police search for the girl was launched and, following information received, three males were identified as being linked to the female and her ongoing disappearance.
"Officers from Exeter Neighbourhood Policing team and the force Tactical Support Group were led by CID officers to arrest three males in their 40s on suspicion of child abduction and they were taken to Heavitree Police Station to be questioned.
"At 5.20pm on the same day, the missing teenager was located at another address in Exeter, linked to a male in his 20s.
"The joint involvement of police and social services led to her safety being secured."
Police warned people that they commit an offence and face arrest if they keep a child from their parent or guardian.
Acting Det Sgt Hawkins said: "The Child Abduction Act is in place to assist cases of this nature. The police are committed, as part of a joint agency approach, to ensure all vulnerable members of our society are safe.
"Where a child is unaccounted for by someone who has a responsibility for their lawful control, that child will be deemed as 'missing'.
"If a member of the public should 'remove' or 'keep' the missing child from this person an offence is committed."
He added: "The arrest of three males on Sunday, January 20, was a police effort to end the 14-year-old's missing status and to secure her safety.
"The arrests should act as a warning to members of the public who seek to obstruct police or assist a missing child.
"We do not wish to discourage members of the public who come to the aid of children in distress.
"However, if you have a child with you, especially if it has been overnight, the police should be advised.
"This is even more important if you believe the child's guardian is unaware of their presence.
"People who obstruct police or actively help the child to remain missing should anticipate being arrested."
The three arrested males have been released on police bail.