Parents of Sutton teenager issue warning after she went to London to meet online stranger
The relieved father of Sutton teenager Molly Davidson - who fled to London to meet a stranger she met on the internet - has warned other parents to look out for online dangers.
Antony Davidson spoke after he was reunited with Molly - five days after she had been reported missing and was last spotted at Nottingham’s Broadmarsh bus station before heading to the capital.
The family said it felt “unreal” to have the 19-year-old, who has learning difficulties and epilepsy, back home in Sutton, where she belongs.
The 49-year-old said: “Any parents should keep an eye on what their children are doing online. We thought we were doing enough - checking her phone now and then, but when we put it all together, we think she must’ve been chatting to him.
“She would go to bed, we thought to watch Celebrity Big Brother, but she probably had her phone on under the covers, chatting.There were times she would be in bed until gone lunchtime, on her phone.
“We would say ‘get me your phone’, but she would delete the apps.
“We were so naive.”
Molly, a student at Vision West Nottinghamshire College, is said to have travelled to meet the 22-year-old, but was told she couldn’t stay with him.
“It is believed that, left without any money and sitting on a bench, she was then befriended by another man in his early 20s, and had spent the past week at his flat, in a communal shared space.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police found her at a flat in the Seven Sisters area of north London on Friday night.
Her parents, and aunt and uncle Melanie and Andy North, were heading back home at midnight on Friday after a day of searching for her in the capital, when they were called by police who told them she had been found. They turned round and went to collect her.
Antony, a self-employed mechanic who is married to Julie, 48, said: “We are relieved, but exhausted, because we’ve hardly had any sleep.
“It’s mixed emotions - we still can’t comprehend how it’s happened.
“It’s life-changing and we are trying to get back to normal.”
He said Molly appeared unharmed and had “found it all like an adventure”.
Antony, who is also dad to 17-year-old Sam, added: “She’s been very lucky.”
Mum Julie said: “It feels unreal that she’s back. She is all safe and sound. We’re just so relieved.
“We’d like to thank everyone who helped with the search.”
Julia Fossi, head of child online safety at the NSPCC, said: “Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation.
“Technology is changing all the time and it can be hard to keep up to date with the latest games, sites and apps but it’s important to take on the challenge and treat it like any other parenting task.”
Parents can get online safety advice from www.nspcc.org.uk/ or call the free helpline on 0808 800 5002.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Molly has been found and is with her family.”