THIEVES stole a car from a busy main street - with a 21-month-old baby asleep inside.

The mother had parked her silver Volkswagen Golf in Bridge Street, Ramsbottom, on Monday morning and left her baby son sleeping in the car and the keys in the ignition while she went to a nearby shop.

But two opportunist thieves jumped inside and drove off with the vehicle. Fortunately the car was found abandoned within ten minutes in Factory Street, Ramsbottom, less that one quarter of a mile from where the car was stolen. The baby was unharmed and was quickly reunited with his family.

The vehicle is now undergoing forensic tests in a bid to catch the offenders.

Detective Inspector Simon Collier, from Bury CID, said: "It would appear that the two thieves saw an opportunity that they couldnt resist. I am satisfied that when they took the car they were unaware that there was a child in the back seat.

"I suspect that as soon as they realised he was there they looked for a suitable place to abandon the car and escape.

"To their credit they left the car in a safe, main road position and police were able to discover the child and car within ten minutes."

Mr Collier added: "The lady involved is obviously delighted to be reunited with her son so quickly but has been left shaken by the incident.

"There is a lesson to be learned here for all car owners. These thieves struck in a busy town centre at 9.45am. Don't make it easy for them. You should always lock you vehicle and never leave the keys in the ignition."

He concluded: "Fortunately there is a happy ending to this story, but it could have been so much worse with major distress to the child and his family."

Police now want to speak to two men seen in the area immediately before the car was taken. They are described as white and aged in their early 20s or late teens. One was 5ft 9ins tall, of medium to stocky build, with black hair in a shaven style. He was wearing dark clothing, with dirty grey or white tracksuit bottoms.