A LITTLE girl was plucked from the edge of a busy main road after “escaping” unnoticed from a nearby nursery.
The youngster – aged about four years old – is believed to have slipped through a gap in the fence behind Chapter One Childcare and was missing for several minutes.
It is understood she walked alone for about 60 metres along a gravel side road before emerging at the edge of Old Dalkeith Road as lunchtime traffic sped past.
Her disappearance sparked a frantic search before the pint-sized runaway was found safe and well at a nearby cafe drinking a glass of juice after seemingly being taken there by a worried van driver.
He is understood to have stopped and picked up the girl before taking her to the car park of the nearby Lowe’s Fruit Farm.
Two women are then believed to have taken her into the Sheriffhall Takeaway, based on the farm site, after suspecting her parents were inside.
The area is around half a mile from the Sheriffhall Roundabout and close to the Shawfair Business Park and park-and-ride for commuters.
CCTV footage is now being scoured to piece together exactly what happened after the girl left the nursery alone last Tuesday. Jon Gillam, the nursery’s financial director, said staff had been left shocked by the incident and insisted they were normally “vigilant about such things”.
He said: “There was a fence that she could have gone through and she could also have gone down the side of a caravan we have on-site.
“We don’t know. We were looking in the grounds and along the roads, everywhere that was posing a danger.
“We are not making any excuses.
“It’s very regrettable and we are so thankful that nothing happened.”
The incident has been reported to the Care Inspectorate and Midlothian Council – although the nursery denied that a full-scale investigation had been launched.
Mr Gillam said he expected no further action to be taken and that the regulatory bodies had “no concerns”.
He said a new fence had been erected around the site within 48 hours of the girl’s disappearance to prevent a repeat incident, and that the youngster was still attending the nursery.
Mr Gillam added: “The parents [of the little girl] have been using the nursery for over seven years for their other children.
“They were perhaps a little bit upset by what happened but, knowing the child, it didn’t come as a huge surprise and they were more than happy to bring her back to the nursery the following day.”
The nursery, which places a strong emphasis on outdoor learning, is based in a large detached farmhouse set in what the nursery website has described as “safe enclosed gardens”.
It is owned by Diane and Jon Gillam and, according to the company’s website, has 15 members of staff, including nursery manager Michelle Nicholson.
Chapter One also has nurseries in the Capital in Liberton, Gilmerton and at Douglas Gardens in the New Town, as well as in other parts of the UK.