THREE brothers missing from Sunderland for four days were found in Oswaldtwistle.

Police have said there may have been a plan to spirit the boys out of the country.

The teens aged 15, 12 and 10, failed to return to their foster carers' home in Sunderland, after setting out on a tea-time bike ride to a local park.

Instead, they caught a Metro to Newcastle, then took a pre-booked taxi to London and spent two nights in the capital before heading for Birmingham, officers said.

All the time with adult assistance, the brothers were then taken to Oswaldtwistle where they were found on Friday, safe and well, police said.

A total of seven people have been arrested and the boys will be taken back to the North East later to be reunited with their foster parents.

Their natural father, who is of Romany origin, was deported to Romania after serving an eight-year prison sentence in this country for people trafficking.

The boys' mother was investigated for criminal matters and left the country earlier this year.

Northumbria Police said the brothers had been living happily with their foster parents for 18 months.