A horrified mum described the “terrifying” moment she saw her car being driven off by thieves – with her two young children in the back.
Desperate Kavipriya Paladhanushan, 36, spent four agonising minutes talking to police and panicking before she realised her children had been let out of the car.
She had stopped to pick up her older son when she left her two youngsters in the parked car.
The mum of three had also left her iPhone in the Audi Q7, which enable police to track down the abandoned luxury 4×4 seven seater to a car park a few miles away.
But relieved Kavipriya has vowed never to leave her children alone in a car again following the shocking incident on Sunday afternoon.
She said: “It was a matter of seconds.
“I had just parked my car while my two young children were in the back and I went to the other side to call for my other son.
“I do not know where this guy came from and how he took the car and drove off it happened so quickly.
“When I first realised it was my car that had gone I just thought ‘oh no, my children are inside the car’.
“I tried to run after the car, but I could not keep up.
“My phone was inside the car and I got my son to call the police and when I was talking with the police I heard some children crying and I suddenly saw my children running and crying and, at that moment, I relaxed because I knew that my children were back and safe.”
She added: “That was my main priority: I just wanted my children back to me. I didn’t care about the car.
“They were gone for three or four minutes. My eight year old daughter told me that they drove off and past two roads and then another guy jumped into the car and the driver told them to get out of the car.
“My five year old son was sitting all the way in the back seat of my seven seater so he had to put the seat down to get out.
“I was just so scared. I don’t have any words for how it was. I just wanted my children, that was the main thing for me.
“It was a terrifying experience, if something had happened to my children I do not know what I would have done.
“It was like a movie and you never think it will happen to you,
“I will never leave my children in the car alone again. That is never going to happen.
“I left my keys inside the car so he used them to start the engine.
“I don’t know why they did this. They did not take my handbag or my phone, but it was lucky my phone was in there because the police used it to track the car.”
The mum, who works part time in her husband’s off licence in Ilford, east London, added: “They looked like they were 20 something years old.
“My children were crying a lot and I did not know how to talk to the police. I just wanted to hug them and tell them everything was going to be okay.
“It was a very difficult time.”
An eye-witness, who asked not to be named, said: “She had parked outside my house and was calling her boy to get into the car.
“There were two guys, one walking towards her and another coming up from behind.
“There was one man walking towards her and another behind her.
“The one who was walking towards her got into the car and drove off.
“The mum was screaming, she had suddenly realised someone had taken her car and she was screaming ‘the kids are in the car. Someone has taken the car’.
“She had only walked a few metres away from the car, the kids were inside they were crying and screaming.
“The driver took a left turn and then let the kids out and the second guy got in and they drove off.”
He added: “She was crying and was very upset.
“After the kids had been let out they were very upset. They were crying and they would not calm down.
“The two men were mixed race and in their twenties. They both had short curly beards as well.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The offence happened at about 4.30pm on Sunday on Roman Road, Ilford.
“A mother had parked the car containing her two children, aged eight and five, and gone to collect a third child.
“She was only a few metres away from the car – a grey Audi Q7 – when she heard the engine start and saw the car drive off.
“The car made off at speed toward Uphall Road and then entered Fairfield Road, where, near to the scene of the theft, the children were let out of the car and reunited with their mother. Neither was hurt, but both were very distressed.
“Police were called and, at 5.13pm, officers located the vehicle abandoned in a car park in Barking.”
He added: “There have been no arrests at this time and inquiries continue.”