The curious case of Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, an Australian toddler who was missing for three days, came to a close Monday when the boy was spotted by air — but there are still many unanswered questions surrounding his disappearance.
Police were first contacted on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and were told that the 3-year-old boy, who also has autism and is nonverbal, had gone missing from his home in Putty, New South Wales.
The family has lived on the property for just a few months, and it spans an impressive 650 acres.
Over 130 people turned up to help look for the boy, including individuals from the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service, NSW Ambulance and Volunteer Rescue Association. For three days they searched, but no AJ.
It was an aviation support service that spotted the toddler at around 11:30 a.m. Monday, crouched in a creek and drinking water just over 1,500 feet from the house. They were able to direct rescuers on the ground to his location.
— NSW Police Force (@nswpolice) September 6, 2021
“Polair1 was flying over a ridge with a creek bed in it and they notice some movement,” Superintendent Tracy Chapman reported, according to News.com.au. “They were able to clearly identify a small boy in a puddle in a creek bed. That was the movement to alert Polair there was someone there.”
“A three-year-old child missing on a rural property in the Hunter region since Friday has been located following a large-scale search,” the NSW Police tweeted shortly after he was found.
AJ spent some time at the hospital getting checked out, according to CNN, but was released to go home with his family after an exam turned up only scratches, bug bites and diaper rash.
While he’s home and safe now, the family is still uneasy about his disappearance, saying too many strange things have happened for them to believe his disappearance was innocent.
A family friend, Alan Hashem, told 7News that the house has been outfitted with CCTV cameras — but somehow, four hours are missing from the footage, and it was during those four hours that the boy went missing.
“We went in there, and I can’t explain it, the window in which he went missing … probably about four hours, there’s footage missing,” Hashem said. “We are absolutely baffled.”
Other family members reported seeing an unfamiliar vehicle nearby during the time the boy went missing. While police have seized and searched a vehicle in connection with the disappearance, there’s no word on whether it is the same one the family saw or if the search turned up anything.
An abandoned shack on the property was also being investigated.
According to AJ’s father Anthony, the area in which AJ was found had already been scoured.
“We have searched that area head to toe,” he said. “SES, with police… the first day it happened, I went around with police.
“I’ve been in the bush for four days, I haven’t slept.”
“It’s a miracle,” Anthony acknowledged. “He’s alive. It’s amazing.”
“But we still need to find out what happened, we need answers,” Hashem said. “How did he leave? Who did he leave with? Did anything sinister happen?
“We will not stop until we find the truth. Thank you to every Australian that was praying because miracles do come true.”
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