The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that Caterina Remhof and Sascha Schmidt were located approximately 10 kilometres from the pizzeria in Aosta, where they left the mother's three children on Sunday after telling the manager they were stepping out for a cigarette. They are now being held at a police station.
When Remhof and Schmidt didn't return to the restaurant, police discovered they had left their personal documents in their vehicle and fled the area. The Italian authorities have been feverishly patrolling border crossing, train stations and airports to find the couple.
The Siegen district prosecutor's office confirmed earlier on Thursday that the 24-year-old Schmidt was a fugitive from justice.
He is not the father of the children - an infant, a two-year-old and a four-year-old. German social workers will travel to Italy on Friday to bring them back to their home in Sauerland on Friday, authorities said.
According to the Siegen district prosecutor's office, Schmidt is supposed to be serving a long sentence for blackmail. He did not return from a two-day parole from prison in early April, authorities said.
Meanwhile a district court in Lennestadt conducted an emergency proceeding to deny the 26-year-old mother Remhof custody, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. Their biological father is in prison, convicted of shaking a baby to death in 2006, the magazine said.
Due to her “irresponsible behaviour,” Remhof, a resident of Finnentrop, no longer has a right to care for her children, the court said.
Italian media reports have said that the couple had financial problems, drug issues and may have been contemplating suicide.