Mum's nightmare: 'I couldn't help but think of little April Jones'
SHOCKED mum Natasha Stokes found her three-year-old son Alfie wandering a busy road alone after preschool staff failed to keep a lookout.
Alfie was found looking "confused" by his mum in Matson Avenue on Friday afternoon.
She has criticised preschool workers at Robinswood Primary School for failing to notice her son's disappearance while he was in their care.
Head teacher Martin Latham admitted yesterday: "It was a mistake and it shouldn't have happened."
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Miss Stokes, of Drayton Way, Gloucester, said she wept at the roadside as she comforted her son – fearing the worst in light of the high-profile investigation into the abduction of five-year-old April Jones in Wales.
The 24-year-old said: "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. My heart was in my throat. Alfie could have been kidnapped or killed. I couldn't help but think of little April Jones.
"I was crying my eyes out and he was very confused so I just cuddled him.
"I asked him what he was doing there and he said that his teacher had let him go."
Four members of staff were present at the preschool, but Alfie managed to bypass them all.
The school installed a new security gate at the weekend and Mr Latham held crisis talks with the mother yesterday.
But she won't take her son back to the school just yet.
She said: "I am not convinced they can ensure his safety.
"When I went back to the school, all they could do was say sorry, but how do we know it won't happen again?"
Miss Stokes is meeting Mr Latham again tomorrow to decide what to do with Alfie.
Mr Latham said: "We have a clear system of how the children leave the preschool. We thought we had a secure system but something went wrong.
"It can be quite congested at home time and I think he had got out around the back.
"We have looked into it straight away and over the weekend we installed a new gate.
"It is not an excuse and we hold our hands up to it – it is ultimately my responsibility.
"We were just as concerned that he had come out of the preschool on his own.
"It is ultimately the mother's decision as to whether Alfie returns and we will be discussing this tomorrow."