He also took the family’s cat (Picture: Google Maps)

A family was left petrified when a thief jumped in their car and fled with their toddler inside.

The two-year-old girl was reunited with her family when the Vauxhall Vectra was discovered three miles away from the scene.

But an urgent manhunt has now been launched to find the culprit, who also took the family’s cat.

The family had parked their silver car outside a relative’s home in Quarrington Hill, near Durham when a dark Nissan X-Trail pulled up in the street.

One relative stood by the car door as the two-year-old was strapped into a car seat in the back and others brought shopping indoors.

Panic struck when a man dressed in a blue hoodie and black joggers jumped out of the Nissan and climbed into the Vauxhall, which still had its engine running.

The victims tried to stop him but he took off at speed around 7pm on Wednesday, Durham Police said.

Following a hunt, the Vectra was later located around Sherburn Beck, near Ludworth.

The little girl was unharmed but the family’s cat, which was also inside the vehicle, has not been seen since.

Anyone with information is urged to get in touch with officers.

Detective Inspector Malcolm Bell said: ‘This has been an extremely distressing incident for the family, who were terrified for the welfare of their child.’

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