A LIMERICK mum has spoken of her huge relief after being reunited with her two and a half year old son, who wandered out of the family home and crossed a busy main road leading out the city before 2am yesterday morning.
Christine Costelloe, 26, was asleep in bed - and believed her three children were safe in their rooms - when gardai called to her house, woke her, and asked her if her son was missing.
At that stage Christine was unaware that her little son Theo, who will be three this July, had more than an hour earlier climbed out of his cot, closed his bedroom door behind him, scrambled down the stairs, let himself out the front door and walked about a mile away from his Garryowen home.
He was wearing his blue onesie and carrying his baby sister Lauren’s pink blanket at the time.
He was found by Limerick student James Ryan, 21, a native of Kilkenny, after the little boy crossed the Dublin Road at the traffic lights and miraculously managed to avoid injury or any harm.
Christine, who is also the mother of Lauren, aged one and jack, aged six, said she had fallen asleep on the couch at about 9.30am and went to bed at 11pm, after her mother had put Theo down for the night at around 8pm.
“I was unaware that anything was wrong. I heard guards downstairs calling for somebody, saying ‘Is there anybody there?’ So when I went down they asked me had I a young son, and I went back upstairs to check the rooms, and my older son was in bed, but when I checked Theo’s room he wasn’t in his cot.
“I went back downstairs and the guards showed me a picture on their phone, saying ‘Is this him?’ They said ‘It’s Okay, he’s safe’.”
Asked what she felt at the time, she said: “Panic. Shock. I was trying to think back, thinking how come I didn’t hear anything. I completely forgotten to double lock the front door.”
“It could have been a completely different outcome. I’m very grateful to the gardai and to James Ryan for staying with him until the gardai turned up.
“The if’s and but’s of what might have happened have come into my head, but I can’t dwell on that. It could have happened to anyone. I’m just happy with the outcome,” she said.
While Theo has managed to climb out of his cot unaided on several occasions, she said his great escape in the early hours of the morning was completely unexpected and out of character for her son, who is normally very shy.
Christine, who works as a receptionist in a business college, said she believes he would have known the route well, as his brother Jack attends St Patrick’s school nearby. “It didn’t surprise me that that was where he ended up,” she added. “Usually they all sleep through all night and I don’t hear anything until the next morning”.
Gardai Orlaith Ryan, from Fermoy in Cork, and Shaun O’Hagan, from Ballinasloe in Galway, who received the call, said it was a night they will never forget.
Garda O’Hagan said Theo was found in a small by-way leading off the Dublin Road onto the Rhebogue Road, by Cherrydale Court.
“Young Theo wasn’t stopping for anyone. James Ryan saw him and kept on following him until a taxi driver pulled up, and between them they contacted us and we arrived at the scene,” he said.
James gave him his t-shirt as it was cold that night.
Gardai arrived at the scene at 2.20am, but have “no idea” what time he left the house.
Gardai made a number of inquiries at Henry Street station to ascertain his identity and home address, but an open door in Garryowen led gardai back to the right address.
“He was surprisingly good for a child that is so small. He took to Shaun very well,” added Garda Ryan. “Our instant reaction was to make sure he was Okay, and we brought him back to the station, kept him warm and gave him milk and a yoghurt, and put cartoons on the TV. He was a pleasure really.”
Describing the reunion, she said: “When we brought him back to meet his mam, we were rounding the corner and he started shouting ‘Mammy, mammy’. He ran literally, from when we opened the car door, into his mother’s arms. It was lovely.”
He was reunited with his relieved mum at 4am, who said every possible precaution will be taken in future to ensure he does not leave the house without her.