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Barefoot girl, 5, found walking alone in snow

A five-year-old girl who was found wandering in the snow in Omagh town centre in the early hours of the morning had walked a quarter-of-a-mile barefoot in freezing temperatures.

Police officers who were called to the scene followed the child’s footprints in the snow to her home in the Gallows Hill area of the town.

A man and woman were later arrested and the child taken into care by Social Services staff.

The pair were later released.

A police spokesman said last night: “It is understood that those arrested have since been released on bail pending further inquiries.”

The incident — which has sent shockwaves throughout the community — occurred just after 5am on Thursday morning when cleaning staff at the SuperValu store in Market Street spotted the girl, who was wearing just a pair of pyjamas, walking in the snow. The child, who was in a severely distressed state and wearing just her pyjamas, had walked into the town centre in sub-zero conditions.

A source said: “Cleaning staff in SuperValu had just started their shift at 5am when they spotted the little girl wandering about in the snow in a distressed state. They immediately took her into the shop and phoned police.

“She was wearing just a pair of pyjamas and had nothing on her feet and she was numb with cold. The child was in hysterics and as the staff tried desperately to warm her up, it actually made the pain from the cold worse.”

In-store CCTV cameras at SuperValu captured the moment the child was rescued from the freezing cold.

When police arrived on the scene, officers traced the young girl’s footprints in the snow to her home in the Gallows Hill area of the town.

PSNI officers wakened the occupants and began inquiries into the incident. Social Services staff were alerted and a man and woman were subsequently arrested.

It is understood the child awoke from her sleep and was frightened in the early hours of the morning. She left the house to walk to the town centre. The only premises lit up and staffed at that time of the morning was SuperValu.

“She was probably drawn to the store by the lights,” the source added. “Anything could have happened to the child at that time of the morning. It beggars belief what may have been the outcome if the cleaning staff hadn’t spotted her.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “At about 5.30am on Thursday, police received a report from a member of the public that he had seen a young girl in her pyjamas at Market Street.

“Police collected the girl and followed her footsteps in the snow to a house in the Gallows Hill area. Further enquiries are being conducted by police and Social Services.”

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