THE streets around where Mikaeel Kular and his family live were a hive of activity yesterday, as neighbours joined police in searching for the missing three-year-old.
As the hours ticked by, concern grew for a toddler who police fear could be out on his own in the Edinburgh cold.
On every corner, small search groups wandered around the estate, clutching smart phones showing the boy’s picture, shouting his name at bushes in the hope he might come out of hiding.
At Cramond beach, members of the public joined the Coastguard in combing the coastline.
One young child, who could only have been slightly older than Mikaeel, turned to his mother and said: “You won’t stop searching until you find that boy, will you mummy?”
All the time, two helicopters hovered over Drylaw, barely moving, as those inside cast their eyes on the streets below.
Occasionally, two or more police cars or vans would race past, sirens wailing, as the focus of the inquiry shifted from one area to another, but without success.
Amid all the commotion, people’s thoughts were firmly on Mikaeel.
Nicola Garrick, 35, a neighbour in Ferry Gait Crescent, said: “He’s quiet but always smiling. He’s an adorable laddie.
“He’s quite wary of my two dogs and he’ll hide behind his mother’s legs, but, even then, he’s still smiling.”
She led one of the many small search parties that trawled the estate in the cold. “I’ve been shouting out, ‘Don’t be scared, your mum is waiting’, and then listening to see if I can hear a whimper,” she said.
“He’s all anyone can think about. I don’t want to sit down while he’s out there.”
Linda Slattie, 52, said: “It must be terrifying for the boy’s mother. She must be going through hell.
“I’ve not spoken to her much, but she smiles when I see her. I think they are quite private people.”
The majority of neighbours did not know the family well, but had seen Mikaeel and his brothers and sisters playing in the street or on the grass at the back of the flats.
Frank Arthur, 72, who lives directly above Mikaeel’s family, described him as a “cheeky little lad”.
He went on: “I didn’t hear anything unusual and I’m not aware of any disturbance in the night. It was the police who knocked on my door, and then we saw it on the news.
“They are a quiet family. Whenever I’ve seen the family, it’s just the mother and her kids. I’ve seen some of the children playing in the stair, but they’ve never been a bother. They’ve been here all the time I’ve lived here, which is five years.”
Asked about the chances of Mikaeel getting out of his home, Mr Arthur said: “It’s quite a heavy front door.
“You have to push a button and pull the door, but it would be a lot for a three-year-old.”
Neighbours were urged to check their sheds, gardens and garages in case the little boy had sought shelter.
Police believe Mikaeel may have left the flat by himself and could have hidden somewhere in the area.
Mothers in Drylaw spoke of their shock at hearing what had happened.
Jade Bremner, 22, who was pushing her two-year-old daughter in a buggy, said: “I could imagine, if it was my child, I would be devastated.
“I can imagine exactly what she [Mikaeel’s mother] is going through.”
Many of those out searching had children with them.
Louise Ramsay, 41, who was with her young son and daughter, said: “We’ve been out for half an hour, looking in the bushes. We’ve just been going wherever the kids say.
“It’s a small child and they understand how a little boy might think.
“It’s just awful – my daughter is the same age.”
As it approached 12 hours since Mikaeel had been reported missing, the searches continued with the added difficulty of darkness and falling temperatures.
Lisa Shanley, 36, said: “We’ve all been out this afternoon looking for him. I just couldn’t sit at home and know he was out here. Everyone we’re speaking to is out looking for him. It’s times like this the community really comes together, helps each other.”
Michelle Donald, 39, said people were becoming increasingly worried as time went on.
She said: “If he’d just wandered off, he would have been found by now. It’s a real worry.
“I can’t imagine what the mother is going through. I wouldn’t ever want to be in that position. But we’ve seen a good community response. That’s what we do, we pull together.”