A German couple who abandoned three children at a pizzeria in Italy last on Sunday have been found in a forest near the town of Aosta, the town's police chief said.
The couple were found wandering in the woods near Aosta
Italian police said Caterina Remhof, 26, and Sascha Schmidt, 24, who is not the father of the children, claimed they had left the three behind because they had run out of money.
Police patrols had been stepped up at Italy's borders, ports, train stations and airports to find the pair, who had not been seen since they left the children - aged 6, 4 and 10 months - in the restaurant after telling staff they were going outside for a cigarette.
A senior Aosta police official, Lorenzo Mesiano, told news agency AFP that Remhof had been charged with abandoning the children and allowed to go free.
Police said the pair had a history of drug addiction and financial problems. German police have said Schmidt was on the run after not returning to prison while on parole. He was serving a sentence for crimes including robbery and extortion.
Wandering in woods
The couple were found late Thursday about 10 kilometers from Aosta after local resident Manuela Bionaz saw them wandering through the woods and alerted police.
"I tried to talk to them, asked them if they needed anything, but we were not able to communicate properly," Bionaz said. "They led me to understand they were well and didn't need anything."
Remhof was charged, but released from police custody
Bionaz said the couple appeared to have used a motorized delivery tricycle for shelter.
The children had been taken to a home in Aosta, where they were reportedly "in good health and maybe happier than ever before," according to Italian daily La Repubblica.
The three children - two boys and a girl - were due to be taken home by German officials late Friday.
The circumstances under which the children were abandoned did not seem to fulfill the criteria for legal action, German state prosecutors said, as the children were not in serious danger or harm.
Authorities issued an order withdrawing the mother's custody of the children, who are to stay with their grandparents after returning to Germany, news agency DPA reported.