POLICE searching for three-year-old Mikaeel Kular found the body of a young boy shortly before midnight last night, and one person has been taken into custody.
• Body recovered in Fife
• Witnesses reported seeing a ‘small boy’ in West Pilton Gardens
• Mikaeel Kular: Hundreds turn out to search
• Boy’s mother named locally as Rosdeep Kular, 33
The news was broken by a visibly shaken Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham at a news conference early this morning. Mikaeel had not been seen since his mother put him to bed at their Edinburgh home on Wednesday night.
To gasps from the media, Mr Graham said: “We have recovered the body of a young boy in Fife shortly after midnight. We have informed the family and the investigation continues.
“A person has been detained in connection with the death.”
Mr Graham gave no further details and took no questions from reporters.
Earlier yesterday, he said it was “entirely possible” Mikaeel’s disappearance had been the result of a criminal act.
It had emerged that Mikaeel had not been to nursery since before Christmas, although police said they had established a “timeline” of his movements up to the point he was last seen by his mother.
Hundreds of volunteers had joined the search for Mikaeel, many congregating in lines to scour areas near the Kulars’ home, including the shoreline at Cramond.
Police told a news conference yesterday that a child matching Mikaeel’s description had been seen in West Pilton Gardens on Thursday morning, about a mile from his home. A member of the public reported seeing a boy who was “small in build and alone” at about 8:30am.
The timing of the possible sighting has been confirmed by CCTV, but it cannot confirm the identity of the child, police said.
“We must make sure we examine fully every possibility as to what might have happened,” Mr Graham said. “It’s entirely possible Mikaeel has left the house of his own accord and all of our actions are attempting to cover that possibility.
“It is, however, entirely possible that Mikaeel has become subject of a criminal act and our investigation has been established as a twin track to ensure that that eventuality is being and will be fully explored.
“From the start, we’ve looked at every possibility. We’ve been working very hard with Mikaeel’s family and mum to understand and establish the circumstances of what’s happened. It’s of grave concern that a young child has been missing for such a long time.”
Police said Mikaeel had been suffering from a bad cold and chest infection and had not been back at Flora Stevenson nursery since the Christmas break.
Children returned to council-run nurseries in Edinburgh on 7 January.
Mr Graham added: “We’ve established a timeline of Mikaeel’s movements going back some time prior to when we can establish he was last seen in the house in Wednesday. There’s a timeline going back to when he’s been seen by different people, but I’m not able to go into detail about that.”
Mikaeel’s mother, Rosdeep Kular, 33, a beauty therapist who went to school in Fife, was thought to be with her mother, Harjinder Kular, at her home in Kirkcaldy.
Speaking to The Scotsman, Ms Kular said her daughter, a mother of five, was struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
Meanwhile, investigations at her daughter’s family home in Ferry Gait Crescent were continuing. Police were seen cordoning off several communal bin areas and officers wearing forensic suits and masks went in and out of the house.
Officers asked for the public’s continued help, following news of the possible sighting. They said the small boy matched the description of Mikaeel, although he was also wearing a cap or hat.
Superintendent Liz McAinsh said: “Since Mikaeel was reported missing, we have been contacted by a number of people with information which we have been working to assess and respond to.
“Members of the public have come forward to report seeing a boy walking in the vicinity of West Pilton Gardens at 8:30am yesterday. The witnesses were in a vehicle driving down West Pilton Gardens at the time they saw the boy.
“They described seeing a small boy on the right-hand-side pavement running towards the junction with West Pilton Park.
“They noticed him because he was small in build and alone at the time. They said he matched the description given of Mikaeel, although they also reported the child they saw was wearing a cap or hat.”
She added: “We need to confirm if this was Mikaeel or if it was another child. If it is your child who was out at this time and in this location, we want to hear from you so we can eliminate this line of inquiry as swiftly as possible.”
Mikaeel, who has two sisters and two brothers, usually sleeps in the same room as his twin sister but was alone on Wednesday night because he was poorly.
Police say his mother put him to bed at about 9pm, only to find his room empty when she checked at about 7:15am on Thursday.
His jacket and shoes were missing and police are looking into whether he might have left of his own accord. He was thought to have been wearing black gloves with multi-coloured fingers, dark navy blue jogging bottoms, a grey pyjama top with an embroidered turquoise dinosaur on the chest.
Police have taken the rare step of activating the UK-wide Child Rescue Alert system, which has only been used once before, when schoolgirl April Jones went missing in Powys, Wales, in 2012. It is a mechanism to centralise possible clues and leads from the public and sift these for information needed by the senior investigating officer.
Those living in the six-flat building said the children often played in the stairwell.
However, in order to leave the building on his own, Mikaeel – who is British with Asian parents – would have had to descend the stairs, reach up and press a small button, then pull the door inwards. Some have questioned whether it would have been possible for someone as small as Mikaeel to get out alone, but police have continued to say this is a possibility.
Irene Brennan, headteacher of Flora Stevenson Primary School and Nursery, said Mikaeel’s disappearance had left staff and his fellow pupils “incredibly upset”. She said: “Our thoughts are with Mikaeel’s family at this distressing time and everyone at the school is thinking of them.
“Mikaeel is a lovely boy and we are incredibly upset by this news. Mikaeel and his brothers and sisters are a part of the Flora Stevenson community and we are all hoping that he turns up safe and well.”
Anyone with information relating to Mikaeel’s disappearance is asked to call the dedicated phone line, on 0300 200 0200.
Angus Howarth: ‘Practically impossible’ for him to get out on his own
IT WOULD have been “practically impossible” for three-year-old Mikaeel Kular to leave his home on his own, a missing persons expert has claimed.
John Moses, a former detective and ex-Royal Military Police officer, said the evidence in the case pointed towards a “professional abduction”.
Mr Moses, now a private missing persons investigator, said forensic officers would have already established whether Mikaeel’s fingerprints were on the doors at the family home.
He said: “The biggest concern is, how can a child of three years of age actually walk out of a premises at that time in the morning?
“To be totally honest with you, it’s practically impossible. So police will be opening up the net and looking elsewhere as well.”
He went on: “I personally don’t think a child would have been able to orchestrate this themselves – as in, open the door and work their way through the system.
“I believe that forensics would have picked up the hand print of the child, clawing at the door, actually opening the door and working its way out.
“So forensics will be one step ahead at this time and it will give them a better understanding at this stage, which won’t be disclosed, about where they should be looking.”
Christine Freeman, a former family liaison officer with West Yorkshire Police, who worked on the disappearance of Shannon Matthews when she was nine, said Mikaeel could have been taken by someone who had had “fleeting contact” with the family in the past.
She said: “It’s very rare for it to be an absolute stranger but may well be someone that has had a fleeting contact with the family. It’s not necessarily going to be a close family member but obviously we can’t rule that out.”
She noted Mikaeel’s mother had yet to make an appeal but said such a move depended on how the investigation was going. She said: “That is down to the senior investigating officer whether they think it’s something worthwhile introducing the families to the media to give out a public appeal.”