The ‘Golden Hour’ is a term that is often talked about in missing person cases – and in respect of missing children time really is of the essence. The first three hours is the most important - with the next most significant period being within 24 hours.
It is now over 48 hours since Mikaeel Kular disappeared . He is described by police as a well-liked young boy whose speech had reached a level where he is able to hold a conversation with someone. That said, he is only three years old and therefore of a very vulnerable age.
Vulnerability is important because it determines the response by the police. In this case the police immediately dealt with his disappearance as ‘critical’, calling upon all the available resources of the newly-formed single police force in Scotland.
ITV News reporter Ben Chapman reports:
So what will the police be doing? Publicly they have activated Child Rescue Alert which provides a dedicated central telephone number of 0300 200 200. This ensures that all calls are answered by an officer in the callers force who checks the new information against a specific criteria and passes it quickly to the police force investigating the child’s disappearance – in this case Edinburgh.
In addition, the police have held regular press conferences . These are vital because they allow the police to make direct appeals to the public – urging anyone with information to contact them.
In any major investigation the public are ‘the eyes and the ears’ of the police and it is them that will provide the vital clues - the jigsaw pieces - that allow the police to put the puzzle together.
And behind the scenes the police will be very focused on building a picture of Mikaeel and his home life. This will involve detailed investigations into individual family members, extended family and friends
In addition, a detailed forensic examination at the home address is ongoing. This involves looking for any clues, letters, notes or communication that would give any indication where Mikaeel could have gone. The forensic examination of the front and rear doors of the flats may enable fingerprints to be lifted and checked against known people – as well as checking to see if any young person's prints appear fresh.
External factors are a key resource to policing - in particular CCTV. Although a camera does exist above the front door of the flat, I am told that this only activates as a video intercom when an individual flat buzzer is pressed. The rest of the estate, although well-designed and lit, has very little CCTV.
Local enquiries, searches and house-to-house are vital because in 33 percent of cases of child abduction an ‘unknown witness’ was found to have provided crucial information in the search for the missing child.
And whilst the police have been very clear to state that they are treating the disappearance of Mikaeel as a missing person inquiry, they have also not closed down any possible theories.
This is a complex and difficult investigation and tonight the police have made it very clear that they are running a twin track approach, looking at the possibility that Mikaeel left of his own accord, as well as the possibility that he is the subject of a criminal act.