A pair of young runaways who sparked a major police search have been found safe and well.

Neil Robertson, 12, and his sister Fiona, 11, were spotted at 6.30pm yesterday in Whitehawk, Brighton, by a family friend, who contacted the police. They are believed to have been sleeping rough.

The children, who were taken into care by Brighton and Hove social services, were in good health, aside from Fiona's left arm which was still in plaster after a fall at Chanctonbury Ring before their disappearance.

Police had described the siblings as "streetwise" and said they had run off from their separate Worthing care homes before, but never for long.

When Neil did not return from a visit to a friend's house in Goring on September 17, enquiries were made but an appeal for the public to help was issued only on Tuesday, two days after his sister vanished.

Between them, the pair had left their care homes more than 40 times in the past year.

Police had been searching places where they normally turned up, including the Palace Pier and the Whitehawk estate, along with addresses in Burgess Hill.

Both were said to have been unhappy at being separated from their mother when they were taken into care.

Colin Tucker, assistant director of social care services for Brighton and Hove, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the children have been found safe and well and we would like to thank our colleagues in the police and the public for their help.

"We are now putting all our efforts into making sure the children are well looked after and that we get a better understanding of the reason why they felt the need to run away.

"We will be reviewing care plans to ensure we do all we can to avoid them going missing again."

During the search, nearly 30 police officers were checking the children's known haunts and team of Neighbourhood Watch volunteers from West Downs division went to Brighton with leaflets to appeal to the public.

Worthing district's Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield said: "We are extremely pleased that the children are safe and well.

"I am very grateful to all members of the public, the media, volunteers, and officers who worked exceptionally long hours to ensure the safety of these vulnerable young people."