Man disappears with friend’s children

MISSING Steven Appleton
MISSING Steven Appleton
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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FOUR children who went missing from their home have been found safe.

A Europe-wide alert was issued by police after Steven Appleton, 30, from Bognor, was accused of failing to return the youngsters to their mum Rebecca Eaton after she left them in his care when she was taken to hospital.

Ms Eaton, originally from Portsmouth, moved last year to Ardee, County Louth, Ireland, and had been staying at Mr Appleton’s rented home on the outskirts of the town for the past few months.

Police in Ireland said they had concerns for the children’s welfare as they had not been seen since last Thursday.

The children are Chloe Eaton, 12, and her siblings Jessica, 10, Jon, five, and Megan, one.

Distraught Ms Eaton, who met Mr Appleton in Portsmouth, had spent 12 hours in hospital with stomach pains.

She told a national newspaper: ‘I just want them home safe.’

But, after a massive police search, the children were located safe and well yesterday in Newcastle, County Down.

A search operation to find the children included police forces in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and England, as well as Interpol.

A 30-year-old man and a woman have been arrested and are assisting police with their inquiries.