A Father has talked about his nightmare when his four-month-old son, asleep in his child-seat in the back of the family car, disappeared apparently without trace when the vehicle was hijacked.

Gardai and most of the entire village of Newport, Co. Tipperary, joined in a frantic hunt for little Luke Duggan when his father, Terry, left him sleeping in the car as he called into a shop for a few errands.

He left the key in the car ignition, not an uncommon practice in quiet Irish villages, and when he returned he realized every parent’s nightmare when the car and child were gone.

Duggan said, “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the empty space where my car was a few minutes earlier. I was absolutely distraught. Even now, thinking about it still gives me a fright.

 “I was really desperate and didn’t know what to do.”

Duggan, who is in his 30s, immediately contacted Gardai (police) and a hunt for the car and child was launched immediately. Villagers joined in.

“Complete strangers along with locals were coming up to me and asking how they could help. They were jumping into cars and driving off in every direction,” said Duggan.

“I traveled so many roads looking for Luke that I can’t remember the names of any of them. I was so upset.”

Searching villagers were desperately hoping Duggan and his wife Gina, who both live near Newport, would be saved the heartache of the British couple Kate and Gerry McCann, whose three-year-old daughter Madeleine has not been seen since she vanished from the family’s holiday home in Portuguese Algarve region in May 2007.

Duggan said, “I unwisely left the keys in the ignition. Luke was sound asleep and I did not want to disturb him.”

Within hours Luke was traced, and the car-thief later arrested, when Gardai found the car 15 miles away in Nenagh.

“The guy who drove off in my car must not have realized there was a baby in the back. I think Luke must have woken up and started crying,” said Duggan.

“The guy then showed he had some heart by contacting the Gardai himself. He left the car near Nenagh, and opened the windows.

“This has taught me a good lesson. I will never leave a child in a car alone again or leave the keys in the ignition.”

Last Thursday, unemployed 61-year-old Patrick McCarthy of Cappamore, Co Limerick, was charged with the theft of the car carrying Luke the day before.   He was remanded on bail to reappear in court on November 5.

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