Hunt for Jehovah’s Witness pair who took ill child

Ashya King depends on a battery-powered feeding system and time is running out. Picture: PA
Ashya King depends on a battery-powered feeding system and time is running out. Picture: PA
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TIME is running out for a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who was taken from hospital by his parents without medical consent as, police said yesterday.

The battery which powers Ashya King’s feeding system is about to run out after more than 24 hours away from medical care.

Ashya’s family took him from Southampton General Hospital at around 2pm on Thursday and travelled on a ferry to France some two hours later.

Hampshire Constabulary said they were told by the hospital that the youngster was missing more than six hours after he was taken by his parents, Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: “It is vital that we find Ashya. His health will deteriorate rapidly. Ashya is in a wheelchair and is fed through a tube. The feeding system is battery-operated and that battery will run out. Time is running out for this little boy. We need to find him and we need to find him urgently.”

Mr Shead said Ashya had undergone “extensive surgery” and his last operation was a week ago.

“The information we have received from his medical team at Southampton General Hospital is that he must continue to be fed via a tube by someone with the relevant medical training,” he said. “If he doesn’t receive urgent medical care, or the wrong treatment is given, his condition will become life-threatening.”

Mr Shead said the six-and-a-half-hour gap between Ashya being taken from hospital and police being called would be considered “further down the line”.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said that Ashya was allowed to leave the ward under his parents’ supervision and hospital staff raised the alarm when the length of his absence “became a cause of concern”.

The Office of Public Information for Jehovah’s Witnesses confirmed yesterday that Ashya’s parents were followers of the religious movement.

Although Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, a spokesman said there was “absolutely no indication” that the family’s decision was “motivated by any religious convictions”.

“We are not aware of the facts of the case nor the reasons for the family’s medical choices, which are personal decisions,” said the spokesman. “There is absolutely no indication, as far as we are aware, that their decision is in any way motivated by any religious convictions. Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to seek the best medical treatment for themselves and their children.”

Police have said their “total focus” is on finding Ashya and his parents are not under criminal investigation at this time.

The Kings boarded a cross-Channel ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg with Ashya’s six siblings at 4pm on Thursday and arrived in France at 8pm local time, police said.

The family, of Southsea, Ports-mouth, are travelling in a grey-coloured Hyundai Style CRDI, registration KP60 HWK, and are believed to be still in France.

Ashya is likely to be in a wheelchair or buggy, he cannot communicate verbally and is immobile, a police spokesman said.

Hampshire Constabulary said the force was working with its counterparts in France to locate the family “as soon as possible”.

Appealing directly to the family, Mr Shead said: “Our message to you is, ‘Please take Ashya to the nearest hospital immediately’. We understand this must be an awful time for you but the most important thing is to get the proper medical care for Ashya. Please work with us to provide Ashya that care.”

Mr Shead said police were keeping “an open mind” about the parents’ motive for taking their son from hospital.

“It’s irrelevant at this point in time,” he said. “The most important thing is to actually locate Ashya. There is a five-year-old’s life at stake here.”

Mr Shead said police were not aware of any previous attempts by Ashya’s parents to remove him from hospital and officers had not had previous contact with the family. He was unable to confirm whether a return ferry ticket had been booked, saying it was a line of inquiry.

In a statement, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: “Ashya has a serious condition that requires constant medical supervision and treatment.

“Following his removal from hospital by his parents, clinical and security staff referred the incident to Hampshire Police.

“We continue to work closely with them and have provided a comprehensive medical report.”