Lifestyle & Human Interest

Little Boy Kidnapped 18 Years Ago Reunited with Family, Sparks Hope for Madeleine McCann


After new developments in artificial intelligence helped solve an 18-year-old missing persons case in China, the search for Madeleine McCann has been given new hope.

On May 6, 2001, 3-year-old Yu Weifeng went to work with his father, Yu Zingquan, who was a foreman of a construction site in Southern China. While playing near the worksite, he disappeared.

Investigators from Shenzhen’s Futian District immediately began investigating the little boy’s disappearance, which they suspected to be an abduction but had no leads until over 18 years later.

“Technology was limited at the time,” Investigator Zheng Zhenai said, according to The Sun. “We checked surveillance footage, but there were simply too many people coming in and out of the area.”

But Tencent Holdings Limited, a large internet-based technology corporation, researches and provides Artificial Intelligence service through the Tencent AI Lab. According to their website, their goal is “both fundamental research and practical application of artificial intelligence.”

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Because of Tencent AI Lab’s involvement, investigators were able to take an age-progressed photograph of the missing child and run it against almost 100 people on a database; it took about two months before the program identified Weifeng as a match.

The now-21-year-old student in Guangzhou didn’t believe that he had been kidnapped at first.

“When we found him, he refused to believe that he was a kidnapped child,” Zhenai said. “But DNA confirmed that he was a match with his biological parents.”

On Friday July 19, 2019, he saw his biological parents for the first time in 18 years in an emotional reunion.

Zingquan said that he was extremely thankful for his son’s adoptive parents who raised him.

“From now on, his foster father will become like a brother to me,” he said. “My son will have two dads.”

Now people are hoping that investigators can use the same innovative technology to help solve Madeleine McCann’s case.

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McCann went missing in 2007 while her family was on vacation in Praia da Luz, Portugal; the then-3-year-old vanished from the family’s rental apartment and hasn’t been seen since.

Madeleine’s case remains unsolved, but artificial intelligence technologies, like the one created and utilized by Tencent AI Lab to find Yu Weifeng, could be exactly what Madeleine’s case needs to finally get resolution.

If you have any information on Madeleine’s whereabouts, please contact officials with Operation Grange in the U.K. directly by phone at 0207 321 9251 or by email at

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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