THE mum of tug-of-love schoolgirl Ellie Silva was flying to Portugal last night from her home in Ireland after the missing eight-year-old was handed over to police.
Candice Gannon is due to have an emotional reunion with her daughter at an Algarve children's home this morning.
She left her home in Ballsbridge, Dublin, yesterday afternoon to fly to Faro via Paris after being told the good news by her lawyer. Her husband Philip travelled with her.
The full details of Ellie's dramatic handover to the authorities, said to have happened in the north of Portugal, were still unclear last night.
Ellie, who disappeared last summer when she went on holiday with her Portuguese dad Filipe Silva, was resting overnight at a children's home in Faro where she was seen by psychologists.
Candice's lawyer Spencer Dohner confirmed: "Ellie is safe and well. My understanding is she was handed over to the authorities around midday by her paternal grandmother.
"As far as I know she has been kept for the last seven months somewhere in the north of Portugal but I don't know exactly where.
"She will be reunited with her mum and stepdad in the morning.
"We thought it would be for the best that way. It gives everyone a chance to rest.
"We know Ellie is in good hands and that physically anyway, she's in good health.
"Candice is obviously delighted at the news and can't wait to see her daughter again."
Filipe Silva, arrested last Friday near Lisbon on suspicion of kidnapping Ellie, was released hours after his daughter was returned to the authorities. He had been held in custody since a court appearance at the weekend.
Mr Dohner said he would apply to a family court to ensure Mr Silva was not allowed to see his daughter alone.
He said: "Everything has happened so quickly that at the moment there's nothing in place to stop Mr Silva from being alone with his daughter, so before the end of the week I intend applying to the courts to have that changed.
"He was released from custody because once Ellie appeared safe and well, there was no danger of a continuing crime being committed which was one of the reasons he was held in custody in the first place.
"He has to sign on every day at a local police station as part of his bail conditions."
Ellie's dad has refused to talk since being arrested.
He was sent to Olhao Prison on the Algarve after appearing before a judge.
Ellie's brave mum has campaigned for her daughter's safe return since she disappeared during a pre-arranged holiday with her Portuguese dad.
He was due to return her to Candice on July 31 last year but failed to do so.
Following Silva's arrest, she said: "I'm worried sick, I'm shaking. This is sickening."
She has described the way the Portuguese authorities have dealt with Ellie's disappearance as "disgraceful."