A woman was left frantic and in tears after a car containing an eight-year-old boy was stolen from outside a convenience store in Cornwall and involved in a high-speed crash.
The boy was released unharmed before a police pursuit across the county ended in a collision which injured one driver and left another in hospital with serious spinal injuries.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating the incident, which saw a 29-year-old man from Okehampton arrested on suspicion of theft.
The woman, who was said to be in her late 20s or early 30s, left the boy, believed to be her son, in a Volkswagen Golf outside the Spar store in Launceston.
Eyewitnesses described how she returned to the shop in tears clutching the boy.
One man, who asked not to be named, said: "I heard a lady screaming she was standing with a boy I now know to be her son and crying frantically that her car had been stolen.
"She was distraught – it was all she could do to dial 999 – the little lad was only in the car because he was poorly and she went to pick him up from school." The eyewitness added: "Myself and the wife have never left ours in the car under any circumstances and this just confirms that it is just not worth it."
Devon and Cornwall Police were alerted at around 2pm on Tuesday after a car was taken from Dutson Road.
They said the female owner had gone into the nearby Spar shop, leaving an eight-year-old child in the car.
"The silver Golf was then taken by a man who drove off but stopped shortly afterwards to let the boy out of the car before leaving the scene," a police spokesman added.
"Officers attempted to stop the car outside Camelford but this was unsuccessful."
A patrol then followed the vehicle which was found a short time later having collided with a silver Vauxhall Insignia on the A39 between B3314 and A395 Camelford.
The female driver of the Vauxhall was treated by paramedics for minor injuries and the man driving the Golf suffered serious spinal injuries and was taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.
Both carriageways of the A39 were closed between B3314 and A395 for three hours.