THE missing Matloch brothers are on their way back to the North East.
Remus, 15, Janko, 12, and 10-year-old David, who have been in foster care in Sunderland for the last 18 months, were found at 2.30pm today at an address in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.
It is believed they went missing as part of an elaborate plot to reunite them with their biological parents abroad.
Their disappearance was reported to police on Monday evening after they failed to return home to their foster parents after going on a bike ride.
They were seen boarding a Metro at Sunderland’s Park Lane and travelling to Newcastle Central Station.
Police said they had no idea what happened to them next, but they have now discovered that the brothers got into a pre-booked taxi to Enfield in London, where they arrived at about midnight.
Superintendent Alan Veitch of Sunderland Area Command, said: “This has been organised and orchestrated by, we believe, familial links. There have been pick-ups and rendezvous.
“The eldest son seems to have been part of the conspiracy. The parents are abroad and Children’s Services are the legal guardians. My belief is that they were intending to repatriate them.”
As police conducted a round-the-clock search for the boys it was discovered that their biological father, who is Romanian, was deported in 2012 after serving an eight-year prison sentence for people trafficking. Their mother left the UK last year while part a criminal investigation.
A 37-year-old man was arrested in Enfield. When the search moved to Birmingham, where it is believed the boys arrived on Wednesday, another man, aged 34, who is believed to be a relative, and a 39-year-old woman were arrested. The arrests led officers to Oswaldtwistle where two men aged 47 and 22, and a woman, aged 23, were arrested. A 41-year-old man was arrested in Newcastle.
The family came to the UK in 1998, lived in London, then Birmingham before moving to Blyth
At a press conference at Etal Lane police station in Newcastle, Supt Veitch added: “The investigation has a kidnap/child abduction focus.
“Exactly what everyone has done remains to be seen, and which charges can be brought remains to be seen. Some will be implicit, some will be hangers-on.
“I don’t know where their parents are or if they are involved, but the dad got eight years for people trafficking, so he is damned good at what he does. They have been one step ahead, it’s been very, very organised, very slick.”
When asked if he was pleased that the boys had been found, he said: “Thank god. We have invested a significant amount of resources in this and we have had a fantastic response from the public.”
The boys have yet to be spoken to by officers.
Daljit Lally, executive director of wellbeing and community health services, Northumberland County Council, said: “We are delighted to hear the children have been found safe and well. We’d like to express our gratitude to Northumbria Police for all their work over the past few days in finding the boys.”