THEY came to lay fluffy rabbits and lions, teddy bears and old, much-loved toys. Red roses lay next to yellow carnations and white lilies. Mickey Mouse sat with a bouquet of pink roses wedged between his white gloved hands.
A little girl in a red jacket with a pink Peppa Pig umbrella was given a bouquet of cellophane wrapped carnations by her mother to put down in memory of a boy she never knew and now never will.
As Alison Porter explained: “He was a three-year-old little boy; I’ve a four-year-old little girl, how could I not come down?”
Four black, steel parking posts on the corner of Ferry Gait Crescent in the Drylaw area of Edinburgh was the spot where a community yesterday came to surrender their fragile hope and kindle their burning anger. For 36 hours, from Thursday morning until midnight on Friday, this was a community bound by a shared mission, one of life and death, to find a missing child who had wandered off at night clad in his blue jogging bottoms, grey pyjama top with the turquoise dinosaur and his little beige jacket.
Or so they and the police had been told. After hundreds had taken part in search parties, moving from their gardens, to waste ground, from golf course to shoreline, picking through blades of grass for sight of a brown shoe or a black glove, any clue to the whereabouts of the missing child, the news that the body of Mikaeel Kular had been found more than 30 miles away in Fife had brought bitter disappointment, grief and anger.
“Why were we told the little boy was wandering around here when they find him all that distance away” said Thomas, who did not wish to give his surname. “No wee laddie could walk that far, someone is no telling the truth and I think everyone has an idea who.”
Wayne and his partner Krystal could hear the boy’s mother Rosdeep Adekoya crying on the morning of his disappearance. The couple, who did not wish to give their surname, are neighbours in the red brick flats on Ferry Gait Crescent. When the police first knocked on their door on Thursday morning looking for Mikaeel, they could hear Rosdeep crying loudly through the open door of her flat.
“We do feel angry, very angry. The story we were told, that he let himself out and was missing in the community, couldn’t have been true.”
Wayne and Krystal, who have three young children of their own, said Rosdeep seemed perfectly pleasant. “We didn’t know each other well, we would say hello and we would take in parcels for each other and you would always hear the kids playing. Now, we don’t know what to think.”
Over the course of yesterday the impromptu shrine to Mikaeel began to grow and deepen into a quilt of flowers and toys. A pink etch-a-sketch was set down with the screen displaying the words: “Sleep tight, Mikaeel. XX”
One note, beside a cuddly lion, read: “This is so sad and a great loss to our street in Ferry Gait Crescent. R.I.P Michael (sic) XX”.
Another said: “Rest Wee Angel. We didn’t know you, but you belonged to our community. You are one of us always and forever. God love you wee Michael (sic) RIP.”
When parents came down they would instinctively hold their own children tight and while older children looked sad, younger ones were understandably bemused.
One set of parents carefully passed a little woollen pig to their young daughter, who was sheltering under a Disney Princess umbrella, and asked her to lay it down on the pile, as a press photographer took a picture. No sooner was it in her hand than the child hurled it down then looked up with a beaming smile. Even in the midst of tragedy children don’t really do poignancy.
Yet their parents do. Nicki Turner, 39, left flowers and a card that read: “Why?” Since the disappearance her son Declan, 9, has been too frightened to go to sleep. “He thought someone would come and take him from his bed, like they came and took Mikaeel.”
Turner, who had been involved in the search, said: “It is heartbreaking. We are in shock, stunned because everybody was hoping that he would be found alive.
“This has been a terrible event but it has shown people that there is still such a thing as community, that when something bad happens, everyone will pull together to help. I feel proud of how the community responded. Everyone just wanted this to have a happy ending, we wanted Mikaeel to be found, but not like this.”
It was a sentiment shared by Cammy Day, the local councillor and community safety leader, who had helped organise the searches. Yesterday he spoke of the impact on the local community: “Although there hasn’t been formal confirmation as yet, it’s looking increasingly certain that today the community is having to face the outcome that everyone dreaded, namely that Mikaeel has not been found safe and well like we all prayed he would be. This is an absolutely tragic situation and my heart goes out to Mikaeel’s friends and loved ones who are now having to come to terms with such devastating news.
“These past two days have seen such an incredible outpouring of community spirit with hundreds of volunteers giving up their time to join the search for Mikaeel. It was a very moving thing to see the community pull together like that and I know that people will continue to support each other in the days and weeks ahead as we all try to come to terms with this heartbreaking outcome. My thanks to everyone who has played their part throughout this situation; you have all given Edinburgh so much to be proud of.”
Yet the grim discovery in Fife has impacted on residents of all ages. Donna Orthanogly, 44, said she had not let her children, Aaron, 9 and Tanay, 6, out of her sight, except at school since the child’s disappearance was reported on Thursday morning. She took part in the search party that combed through the local park and went to bed on Friday night still cradling a hope that the child would be found alive. When she heard the news at 5.30am yesterday she was devastated.
“In my mind I’m hoping it was an accident or a cot death and someone panicked and I know that sounds strange but I can’t bear to think of someone hurting him,” she said.
She felt it was important to tell her sons and bring them down so they could pay their respect. “I wanted them to hear from me. I didn’t want them to hear it in the school- yard. I wanted them to know that sometimes bad things happen.”
The boys had donated a teddy and wrote on a piece of paper: “Sleep well with the angels. Hope you like the teddies for you to cuddle in Heaven.”
Cameron Haddow was in bed with his girlfriend, Erin Anderson, when they read on Twitter of Mikaeel’s death. “I just burst out crying,” said Erin, 17, who works with young children each day at Build-A-Bear. “He was just so young, it is awful, just awful. We wanted to come down here as soon as we could. We wanted to show that we cared.” Cameron, 18, said: “I feel angry, very angry. Who could do this?”
For Khalida Hussain the shrine was only 12 steps from her flat at number 20. “You see these terrible things on television or in the movies. You don’t expect to see it on your doorstep. When we heard the story, we wanted to believe it, we wanted him to be found, but in your heart it didn’t seem true that he could let himself out.”
At 12.40pm, five hours after the first bouquet had been laid down, the council decided that the spot was not appropriate as a temporary shrine and that it should be moved to a park a few hundred metres away. The floral flit coincided with the arrival of two families with small children, who each picked up a few toys and carried them to the new resting spot. A trio of little girls in pink wellingtons blew out the candles and carefully carried them off.
Chris Cowan, a social care worker, arrived in mid move cradling his three-year-old son, Samuel. “People are angry, in these situations you often think a member of the family is involved. My wife said perhaps it’s the husband but now it may be the mother who is involved in some way. It’s awful.”
He had taken part in the searches: “We were looking here and they find him in Fife. It’s terrible.” Asked if he and the other searchers felt tricked, he replied: “Yes. We all do.”