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An Australian family says they are “shocked” after their three-year-old daughter was taken from her grandparents when they opened a box of Christmas gifts, leaving the girl in “absolute shock”.

The parents, who live in the NSW country town of Tandridge, were returning from a camping trip with their three-year-old daughter and four-year-old grandson, when they spotted an item they believed was a toy.

They opened the box and found that their granddaughter had been bound in an unidentified and heavy-looking material.

“She was tied up in all directions, with a lot of knots and it was very heavy … and I think the reason we were shocked was that she was tied up in a box for what seemed like forever,” the mother told The Guardian.

“You wouldn’t think it was a child in such a box.”

Ms Alkisti said that after her daughter’s grandfather had come to the family home in Tandridge and said the family “would be getting a box of goodies this Christmas” the family had a conversation about the item.

The mother and two of her children opened the box.

Ms Alkisti and a neighbour brought the item with them to the local police station for investigation, but later learned their daughter was missing.

She said neighbours had been visiting their home for several years, and the police visited them after the mother asked for a missing poster.

Ms Alkisti said she now wanted to go to the police and ask for help to make sure her granddaughter’s story is not made up, as her granddaughter needed her attention and support.

“We wanted to make sure we were OK, and that we were not a little stepchild,” she said.

“To me, it was just totally shocking to see something like this.”

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The Tandridge local authority said it was aware of an “apparent incident involving children”, and that its investigation was in active progress.

“As soon as we have all the information and have spoken with the family, we will decide on the appropriate course of action,” the authority said.

“If a child is taken in this way, whether for reasons of safety or care, then police can be called to secure them and if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges, then it is referred to the Child and Family Court.”

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