Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 15:22 UK

Cardiff man jailed for stealing car with baby inside

Paul Sweet
Sweet panicked after seeing the baby, the court heard

A man who stole a car without realising a one-year-old girl was asleep in the back has been jailed for 34 months.

Paul Sweet, 41, of Ely, Cardiff, took the car on 23 December 2009 after it had been left unattended momentarily by a young mother in Cardiff city centre.

The mother told police she feared her child had been taken by a paedophile, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

Sweet, who abandoned the car and unharmed baby, admitted a number of offences including child abduction.

The court heard the black BMW car had been left unattended in Park Grove by the mother while she dashed into a nursery to collect her older daughter.

She returned to find her car gone, sparking a huge police search involving dozens of officers and the force helicopter.

I had a horrendous feeling of guilt. I couldn't believe what I'd done to my baby.
The baby's mother

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police it was "the longest hour" of her life.

She said it had been her daughter's first birthday and that she could not stop thinking about Madeleine McCann, the four-year-old girl who was abducted from a holiday resort in Portugal in 2007.

"I thought I would never see my daughter again," she said. "I had a horrendous feeling of guilt. I couldn't believe what I'd done to my baby.

"Was the person who took her a paedophile? What was he going to do to her?

"I was absolutely distressed. When I found out she was safe and well I was ecstatic, absolutely overwhelmed."

Sweet, who admitted child abduction, joyriding, driving while disqualified, without insurance and stealing bank cards and £400 in cash, told police he drove the car away so he could "search" it for valuables.

He said: "As I turned around to search the back I immediately noticed a baby.

"I panicked, picked up the bag and left. I would never have taken the car if I had known there was a baby in the back."

Astonishingly, you made no attempt to contact the emergency services anonymously to tell them where the little baby was
Judge Stephen Hopkins, QC

Marion Lewis, defending, said: "He's desperately sorry for taking the child away and for the distress he put her mother through."

Sweet had 38 previous convictions, mostly for theft and serious driving offences, the court heard.

Judge Stephen Hopkins QC told him: "The mother of the young child was totally devastated by what you did.

"She had visions of that well-known disappearance case of Madeline McCann.

"Astonishingly, you made no attempt to contact the emergency services anonymously to tell them where the little baby was.

"You are a terribly callous and unfeeling man."



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SEE ALSO
Charges after car taken with baby
03 Feb 10 |  Wales
Thief stole car with baby inside
23 Dec 09 |  Wales



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