Wandering toddler's mum thanks student who found him a mile from home

A Limerick mother says she was "shocked" after two gardaí woke her in the middle of the night to tell her that her two-year-old son had been found about a mile away from the family home.

Theo Costelloe, from Aspen Gardens in Limerick, let himself out the front door shortly after 2am yesterday morning.

He was found by a passer-by on the Limerick to Dublin road after he had crossed the N7 wearing only a onesie pyjama suit and holding onto a blanket.

Here's Theo, pictured today:

Theo climbed out of his cot, closed his bedroom door behind him and left his family home by opening the front door while his family slept, unaware he had gone.

The intrepid toddler's adventure led to a major garda investigation.

Theo, who sleeps in his own room, was eventually taken to safety by a passer-by who alerted gardaí.

His relieved mother, Christine Costelloe, 26, said: "I'm shocked".

"I was asleep. I was unaware of anything wrong. I went to bed, and (at about 3.45am) I heard gardaí downstairs calling out 'Is there anybody there?', so when I went downstairs they asked me had I a son.

"So I went back upstairs and checked their rooms…I have an older son and he was in his bed, and I went in Theo's room and he wasn't in his cot."

The panic-stricken mum of three was then told by gardaí that they had Theo in protective custody at Henry Street garda station.

"So I came back downstairs and the garda showed me a picture of him on their phone and they said, 'Is this him?', and I said 'yeah', and they said it was OK and that he was safe. They said they had him in Henry Street station and so they were going to bring him back to us."

Christine, a single mother, said she couldn't believe what had happened.

"The ifs and buts went through my head all day yesterday (but) I can't dwell on that. I haven't left him out of my sight since," she said.

"He had ventured out about 2am or 2.30am, out the front door and went down the Dublin Road. I didn't know anything had happened.

"Gardaí said that he was on his way out the road and that a young lad had found him and had brought him to the gardaí. That's all I knew."

"(I felt) panic, shocked, I was trying to think back to how I didn't hear anything, how I didn't hear a creaking door. I didn't know any different.

"I had fallen asleep downstairs and woke up and went straight to bed (around 11pm), not realising I hadn't double locked the front door with the key. You couldn't get in from the outside, but you could open it from the inside, so it just had to be double locked, but I completely forgot and just went to bed. I was shocked (afterwards)," said Christine.

Little Theo, described as "shy" by his mum, was completely unaware he had sparked a major garda alert.

"He had got out of the cot. He had climbed out of the cot a couple of mornings beforehand, but he had just come straight downstairs to me. It's very unlike him not to come in and check on me inside in bed or just to make some sort of noise but he didn't.

"He just walked straight out of his cot, closed his bedroom door behind him, and off (he went) down out the front door," Christine added.

"His brother's school is down int he at direction so he would know that route, and the petrol station (is there) and he would know that way to venture down that road, would be familiar to him, so it didn't surprise me when he ended up."

"He started shouting 'mammy'"

Two gardaí at Henry Street station, Shaun O'Hagan and Orlaith Ryan, returned the little adventurer to his mother at 4am.

Garda Ryan said: "It was lovely. We were driving around and we were saying is this where mammy is, and then he started shouting 'mammy', and then he ran straight into his mam's arms. It was a lovely (end)."

Garda O'Hagan added: "He was found just off the Dublin Road, on a little byroad leading to the Rhebogue Road. It was by Chererydale Court, after the traffic lights. He went straight across the road. It would be roughly a mile. He had crossed the Dublin Road (The N7) at the traffic lights and was heading down to Rhebogue."

Christine and the gardaí praised the actions of James Ryan, a University of Limerick student, who along with a taxi driver, kept Theo safe until gardaí arrived on scene.

(UL student James Ryan, from Co Kilkenny. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22)

"James Ryan spotted him on the Dublin Road and young Theo wasn't stopping for anyone, so he kept on walking and James followed him until a taxi driver pulled up, and between the two of them, they were able to get in contact with us and we arrived at the scene.

"We arrived on the scene at 2.20am. He was (dressed) in his blue onesie suit and he had his sister's pink blankey. James (Ryan) had given him his t-shirt as it was cold that night just to keep him that extra bit warm," added garda O'Hagan.

Safe and well in Limerick

Garda Ryan said something like this could happen to anyone and that it was no one's fault.

She added: "It was a complete accident and it could absolutely happen to anybody. Children that age are starting to move about. It wasn't Christine's fault.

"It was fortunate he was found so close to his home. I would advise fathers and mothers to take it on board. Just to do safety checks, and make sure doors and windows are locked from the inside.

Christine, who has two other children, Jack, (6), and Lauren, (1), said: "It could have been a completely different outcome. I'm very grateful for James staying with him until gardaí turned up and I'm very grateful to the gardaí."

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