A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy sparked a frantic search after he went missing in a garden centre.
Police were called and the garden centre was closed and put on “lock down” as the large-scale search operation was carried out.
But the excitement passed little Deacon Stott by — as he was found fast asleep 40 minutes later in the pet section.
The toddler was on a day out with his great-grandparents at Bradley Fold Garden Centre, Radcliffe Moor Road, yesterday morning when the drama unfolded.
His great-grandmother broke down in tears when he was found and the family have said a heartfelt thank you to all the shoppers, staff and police who searched for Deacon.
Sheila and Norman Gillard, from Farnworth, raised the alarm just after 11am, prompting more than 20 concerned people to start hunting for the youngster at the family-run centre.
His mother, Samantha Green, who is nearly eight months pregnant, was not told about the drama until after her son was found asleep on the floor, nestled next to a shelf and just feet away from the rabbits.
The 28-year-old, also from Farnworth, said: “I would have probably have had a panic attack.”
About seven police cars were seen outside the garden centre and a police spokesman confirmed a three-year-old boy was reported missing at the shop at 11.07am.
Little Deacon was found by a member of staff, after being missing for nearly 40 minutes, oblivious to the drama.
Grandmother-of-eight Mrs Gillard said she cried tears of relief when her great-grandson was found.
She added: “I think it was the emotion I felt. The people at the garden centre were very nice.
“They wanted to make me a cup of tea and they brought me some bottles of juice, which was very good of them.
“The people that were looking for him, it was surprising. You don’t realise how kind people are.
“He was missing for nearly 40 minutes but it felt like a lot longer.”
Miss Green, who works for a plant hire company in Chadderton, said: “He falls asleep anywhere. He is just like his dad, he could fall asleep on a washing line.
“He doesn’t really run off. He has only done it once before but I found him within 30 seconds, hiding between the aisles in Next.
“Obviously he has just run off and hid and fallen asleep. He is quite clever, he understands quite a lot.
“He knows that obviously it’s serious if the police are there.
“My nanna said he was really quiet on the way home.
“They said he was a little bit shocked with all the attention. He probably won’t run off again.”
The family and garden centre owner, Judith Ainscow, thanked everyone who took part in the search for Deacon.
Miss Green added: “My nanna said everyone couldn’t do enough.
“All the shoppers and workers and everyone were trying to find him.
“She said she was really overwhelmed, everyone was so helpful and really concerned.
“It just shows how people care for each other.”