Exclusive: Parents of boy, 6, who went missing at services say thank you to the 'wonderful' people of Milton Keynes
The parents of the little boy who went missing in Milton Keynes for most of Friday night have said a heartfelt thank you to the hundreds of people who helped during the desperate nine hour search.
Six-year-old Aadil Rahim touched the hearts of an entire town when he disappeared at Newport Pagnell service station during a school trip.
His dad Umair has today asked the MK Citizen to extend the family's gratitude to everybody who helped give the story a happy ending.
He said: "I cannot tell you how thankful I am to the people of Newport Pagnell. There were over a thousands people out looking for my son through the night.
"Please say thank you to them all from us.They are wonderful and I want them to know my son is perfectly fine now, He is happy and playing with his toys."
Incredibly, little Aadil survived from 7.15pm until 4am outside in the cold and dark, wearing just his school uniform and no coat.
He had spent the day on a trip to London, to visit a museum with his primary school in his home town of Nottingham. But when the coach stopped at Newport services to give the pupils a comfort break, Aadil somehow got lost after going to the toilets.
CCTV showed him running through a car park on the north side of the service station but there was no sighting after that.
Mr Rahim has told how he drove down from Nottingham after getting the phone call every parent dreads. His wife stayed at home to look after their young son.
Within minutes police deployed officers to close off the service station from both directions of the M1 and scour every inch of the town.
The news quickly spread to the town's Facebook group, 'Newport Pagnell general chit chat', and people took to the streets in their hundreds to help.
The Thames Valley Police helicopter took to the air and tracker dogs searched the ground. The National Police Air Service arrived to assist, as did dozens of volunteers from the specialist Bucks Search and Rescue team (BSAR).
But as the hours ticked by, and temperatures dropped to almost zero, there was still no sign of Aadil.
"It reached the early hours of the morning and lights were blazing in houses all over the town. You could see that nobody was sleeping. We were all desperately worried about this little boy and, sadly, starting to fear the worst. There was even speculation that he may have been abducted and driven off down the motorway," said one resident.
Mr Rahim, a 31-year-old used car dealer, was advised to sit with police in a police car during the desperate wait. He said officers were "immensely supportive".
Meanwhile, firefighters from Bucks Fire and Rescue water unit used their water rescue boat to search the flooded stream near the service station and the lake at nearby Little Linford,
People took to the Facebook group in their hundreds to check for news, while the Citizen worked through the night providing updates.
Finally, at 3.40am, the helicopter spotted a tiny shape in a fenced-off area right next to the M1. Half a mile away from the service station, It houses the electrical equipment used to power the large matrix signs on the motorway.
Aadil was found sitting on a concrete block, shivering and scared but seemingly none the worse for his ordeal. The rescuers wrapped him up in a foil blanket and took him back to his dad.
"Suddenly he just appeared in front of me," said Mr Rahim.
"I gave him the biggest hug. I didn’t want to let him go. That was the best feeling. My boy was safe and well and not hurt."
He said that his wife had prayed continuously during the wait and had never gave up hope.
"At the time you don’t really know but I couldn’t let silly thoughts get inside my head... police kept reassuring me they’d find him."
Aadil himself had "no idea" about all the fuss surrounding him, he said.
"He had been wandering up and down the side of the motorway after going to the toilet and when he came out he couldn’t find the coach and he got lost from the rest group.
"Thankfully he didn’t get onto the M1, he remained at the side of the motorway.”
Today the Rahim's are celebrating the happy outcome with relatives at their home on the Aspley estate in Nottingham.
Mr Rahim said: "Our son is now back with us safe and sound with the Mercy of our Creator. We are pleased and would like to spend time together as a family."
He has thanked police and the official rescue teams, saying: We are very grateful to the police and the teams working with them for their professional level of care and investigation and their immense support for the family during this very difficult time.
Newport resident and administrator of the town's Facebook page Scott Humphries said: "What a relief! What a fine town we live in where so many people are out looking and deeply concerned regarding his welfare. We know 100 per cent that if anyone goes missing again, no matter where they from, or in what circumstances, we can put together on mass a search team should it be required."
It is understood an investigation will now be held in Nottingham into how Aadil became detached from the school party during the stop-off at the services.
* Bucks Search and Rescue (BSAR) is a volunteer unit available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It assists the emergency services with vulnerable missing person searches across the county. It receives no government funding and relies upon public donations. You can donate via their website here.