Police believe missing Portsmouth boy Ashya King and his family might be in Spain.
Ashya was being treated in Southampton General Hospital for a brain tumour when his family took him and left the country on a ferry to France.
The youngster, a long-term patient at the hospital, was there after undergoing extensive surgery – the latest was just seven days ago.
But an international search for the Southsea boy involving Interpol was launched after his parents took him out of hospital on Thursday afternoon and. together with his six brothers and sisters, caught a ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg.
Today police said they believed the family might now be in Spain.
A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that there is positive information to suggest that the family of Ashya King may now be in Spain.
‘We have now information that gives us greater confidence that the family have strong links to the Marbella area and that they may be travelling there. We are working with the Spanish authorities in our continued effort to locate five-year-old Ashya.’
Hampshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: ‘The need to find Ashya is now desperate. It is really important that we find him and ensure he receives medical attention at the earliest opportunity.
‘WWe still don’t know whether the King family have any spare batteries for the machine which administers food, the knowledge, or any way of recharging the battery. Without properly administered food Ashya’s situation is very serious.
‘We still urge everyone to please help us find him. Please continue to visit the Hampshire Police website or Hampshire Constabulary Facebook page and share the appeal and the photos of Ashya, his mum and dad Brett and Naghmeh, and the car that they were travelling in when they left for Cherbourg.
‘There have been widespread media alerts across Europe, we would now encourage anyone with links to Spain particularly to also help us spread the appeal via social media.’ Officers have asked people to use the Twitter hashtag #FindAshya.
Police appealed for help from expatriates and holidaymakers, saying: ‘Do you have friends or family living in Spain? Or own property in Spain? Please help spead our appeal in this country. The King family could have crossed the border. They are believed to have links there.’
Police published an appeal in Spanish on their Facebook page.
Ashya is fed through a battery-powered tube, and on Friday night it was feared the device will have run out of power.
Hampshire police’s major investigation team, led by Detective Superintendent Dick Pearson, said its focus is to find the family and ensure Ashya gets the medical help he needs.
Hampshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: ‘We have been told by medical experts that the battery life on the machine that administers his food is now likely to have expired.
‘We don’t know whether the King family have any spares, the knowledge, or any way of recharging the battery.
‘If they don’t, without properly administered food, Ashya’s condition will deteriorate very quickly.
‘Our message remains the same – please help us find him.
‘Please visit the Hampshire police website or Hampshire Constabulary Facebook page and share the appeal and the photos of Ashya, his mum and dad Brett and Naghemeh, and the car that they were travelling in when they left for Cherbourg.
‘We have had a good response to widespread media coverage, with people who know the King family calling in.’
Interpol issued a Yellow Notice Friday afternoon in a bid to alert international authorities after he was taken on a ferry to France with his mother and father and six brothers and sisters, aged between three and 23.
The family were in a grey Hyundai I800 people carrier with the registration KP60 HWK.
The boy was reported missing from Southampton General Hospital at 2.15pm on Thursday.
His father Brett King, 51, was caught on CCTV pushing the youngster out of the hospital.
His mother Naghemeh, 45, was also with the family.
But Hampshire police were not told by hospital staff that he was missing until 8.35pm.
By then the King family had already crossed the Channel, getting on the 4pm Britanny Ferries service from Portsmouth to Cherbourg and arrived at around 8pm French time.
Officers later spoke to the National Crime Agency and French authorities were formally notified at 1.30am Friday.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead added: ‘So far, we have had one reported sighting of the family, which was on the ferry to France on Friday.
‘There have been widespread media alerts across Europe, focusing on countries where the Kings had a known association; and in particular, we continue to work closely with French authorities.
‘The last positive information we had placed them in France, but by now, we cannot be certain they have not moved on.
‘Our enquiries are totally focused on establishing where they are now.
‘There is still time to find Ashya and make sure he gets the medical help he urgently needs, but we need the public’s help to do this.’
An emotional appeal for Ashya’s return was also released by his grandmother Patricia King.
She said: ‘All I would say to Brett is please, bring him back.
‘We have all been in a terrible state over Ashya’s health – it’s been a dreadful time for us all over the last month.’
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Southampton hospital, would not go into detail about why police were not informed of Ashya’s disappearance until more than six hours after he was last seen.
A spokesman said: ‘Ashya was a long-term patient who was permitted to leave the ward under the supervision of his parents as part of his ongoing rehabilitation.
‘When the length of time he had been absent became a cause of concern to staff, they contacted police after a search of the site and attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful.
‘Ashya has a serious condition that requires constant medical supervision and treatment.
‘Following his removal from hospital by his parents on Thursday, clinical and security staff referred the incident to Hampshire police.
‘We continue to work closely with them to support the search and investigation and have provided a comprehensive detailed medical report on Ashya to ensure any hospital he is taken to can provide the care he requires immediately.’
Ashya’s brother Naveed posted an emotional video message on Facebook on July 23.
On the video he said: ‘Ashya last night was diagnosed with a brain tumour and will be getting an emergency operation in the next 15 minutes, so please add him to your prayers to make it through the operation.’
Naveed later posted that Ashya’s tumour was ‘the size of a tangerine.’
The motivation for the family to leave the country is still unclear.
The police said it refused to be drawn if any law had been broken, when asked why police had said he was taken ‘without consent’.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: ‘That is not our concern at this time, our total focus is on locating Ashya.
‘We just want to appeal to his parents or anyone else in the public who might know where he is.
‘There is a desperate need to ensure he gets the medical care he needs.’
Police also said they are looking at French motorway cameras as a line of enquiry.
As a long-term patient, Ashya King was allowed to leave the hospital ward he was a patient in under the supervision of his parents, health officials have said.
Parents can remove their children from hospital unless they are prevented from doing so by a court order.
If doctors fear parents intend to remove a child, fail to allow the child to receive the medical treatment they need and expose them to a risk of serious harm, they can seek a court order.
In such proceedings the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is normally involved.
CAFCASS a non-departmental public body which advises family courts, makes proivisions to represent children and provides information, advice and support to children.
Once an order is in place, any parent who removes their child in breach of the order could face a prison sentence under the Contempt of Court Act.
No indication parents motivated by beliefs
Ashya’s parents are followers of the Jehovah’s Witness movement – but there is no suggestion that their actions are motivated by religious beliefs.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, a spokesman for The Office of Public Information For Jehovah’s Witnesses said there was ‘absolutely no indication’ that the family’s decision was ‘motivated by any religious
‘We are not aware of the facts of the case nor the reasons for the family’s medical choices, which are personal decisions,’ the spokesman said.
‘Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to seek the best medical treatment for themselves and their
Ashya’s brother Naveed posted a YouTube video on July 23. He said: ‘I haven’t slept anything really. I’ve been awake all night worrying and today dad came back and said you’re going to have to have an emergency operation in the next 10 to 15 minutes. I just want to say we love you so much.’
Naveed wrote on Facebook, earlier this month that Ashya had improved, but added: ‘He is still far from being a normal child and still not out of the danger
Neighbours spoke of their surprise at actions taken by the King family.
Although they are understood to have moved to Havelock Road in Southsea, they had been living in St David’s Road.
Penny Rose, 54, lived next door. She said: ‘We didn’t really know them at all. We used to say hello. But you don’t expect to hear about something like this.’
Janet Booth, 66, added: ‘I’m a former district nurse so I realise the child needs help. I wish I could help them.’
Read more stories about Ashya King here