YOUNG Alex Batchelor is back home safe and sound – and it’s all thanks to the incredible community spirit shown by the public.
Today the family of the 25-year-old sent their heartfelt thanks to all the people who stayed up through the night to make sure Alex was found after he went missing.
Alex, who has Down’s Syndrome, was reported missing at about 3pm on Tuesday because he was nowhere to be seen when his lift arrived at Highbury College in Cosham.
Police put on an appeal – including releasing his picture – and within a few hours more than 2,000 people had joined a Facebook group to find Alex, who lives in Stubbington.
Teams of people – many strangers to each other and Alex – were out searching for him.
He was eventually found at about 3am yesterday at a bus stop in Eastbourne, East Sussex, by two women who had seen the online appeal.
Alex’s dad Jeff Batchelor, 47, from Stubbington, said: ‘We want to say a huge thank you to the police and the public. So many people were helpful.
‘It appears because of Facebook somebody over in Eastbourne put it on their profile and happened to go out and see him. We are trying to find out who the two young ladies are. There are some wonderful people.’
Jeff and wife Michelle, who had been frantically driving across south Hampshire looking for him, had an emotional reunion with Alex in Worthing after Eastbourne police drove him halfway home.
Fighting back tears, Michelle said: ‘We are just so grateful.’
Jeff added: ‘We picked him up and it was a lovely feeling to have him back.
‘Alex is his normal happy self. He already wants to go back to day services, having only had a couple of hours sleep.’
It is understood Alex caught several buses to end up in Eastbourne.
Mum-of-one Kat Davies, 22, of New Road, Copnor, set up the Facebook group, with some people travelling from Midhurst to Gosport to search for Alex.
She said: ‘I didn’t know Alex but my heart sunk being a parent myself so I wanted to help out
‘I only expected 200 people to join. It was a great act of community spirit.’
Liam Howes, a DJ from Portsmouth, who went out looking for Alex, said: ‘I don’t know him personally, but it was cold, he was vulnerable and it was the least I could do.’
Inspector Dean Gower, from Hampshire police, said: ‘We are very grateful to everybody that turned out to help us.’