“She was scared, sad, cold and tired. But as far as I could see she was unharmed,” said John Pettersson, one of the volunteers, to daily Expressen.
The girl was found after a group of volunteers from the organization Missing People spotted her outside accompanied by a man in his twenties. The volunteers reportedly surrounded the man and called the police who were quickly on the scene.
“She has been brought to hospital for medical examinations,” police spokesman Stefan Gustafsson confirmed news agency TT.
The girl had disappeared shortly before 8am on Thursday when she left her home to walk to school. After saying goodbye to her older sister who cycled past her, she never made it to class.
According to TT, her father had called the police just before 4pm when he was informed of her absence from school. At first schoolteachers had not noted that she was missing as one of the school nurses was conducting health checks that day and students were absent from classes here and there over the course of the day.
“By 5pm we had realized that this would take a lot of resources and should be classified as a serious incident,” police spokesman Björ Blixter told TT.
According to officers, there was nothing indicating that the girl was staying away by her own accord, or hiding out at a friend’s house. Neither had anything particularly difficult going on within the family or at school.
Police searched the area between the girl’s home and her school throughout Thursday night, assisted by some 500-600 members from the volunteer organization.
The girl was found just before 3am on Friday in the area where she had disappeared.
The 20-year-old man has been taken to the police station for questioning. As of yet, he has not been formally notified of any suspicions against him.
“But the preliminary investigation into suspected kidnapping is still undergoing,“ said Gustafsson to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
The girl’s version of events will be crucial to the investigation, according to the police.
“We have spoken to her, but we are treading gently as she is only 9 years old,” Gustafsson said to TT.