A TODDLER has been safely reunited with her parents after slipping out of her home and wandering for more than half-a-mile, at times perilously close to main roads.

The 23-month-old girl, who is not being named, was spotted wearing only her nappy on Essington Way, near the centre of Peterlee, County Durham, just before 6am yesterday, by a woman driving to work.

She used her mobile phone to call the police and followed the child, keeping up a conversation with officers, but lost track of the toddler when she wandered into a housing estate.

In the meantime, Stephen McDonough, 48, heard her crying, and looked out of his bedroom window in Kemp Road to spot her about five yards from the main Gilbert Road.

Panic-stricken, he ran downstairs to rescue the toddler.

He said: "It was about 5.50am when I heard the bairn's cries and looked out of the window and saw this little, tiny girl.

"I thought, 'dear God', and just ran out in my shorts. The bairn was scared of me but my main idea was to grab her and bring her in the house.

"It was a shock, but I love kids so I just got on with it."

PC Stephanie Reynolds arrived at the scene, and she and the woman motorist saw Mr McDonough taking the baby in.

The little girl was cold, wet, and unable to say who she was or where she lived, so PC Reynolds took her to Peterlee police station.

About half-an-hour later, her distraught mother discovered she was missing and called 999, and was soon reunited with her daughter.

PC Reynolds said that how the toddler had managed to get out of bed, down the stairs and out of the house, and then wander 1,000 yards from her home remained a mystery to the police and her parents.

She said that by the time she was picked up from Kemp Road, she been missing from home for some time.

"The child was cold and distressed but otherwise unhurt," she said. "It was lucky she was spotted when she was.

"Although the roads were very quiet at the time, and there was no one around, she could so easily have wandered into trouble."