Missing Ottery boy, 11, found half a mile from home after residents comb the streets until 2am
PUBLISHED: 10:42 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:05 08 August 2019
A dramatic four-hour search saw residents old and young scour the town to find an 11-year-old boy who went missing from his Ottery home.
The boy's mother realised her child has hopped out of his bedroom window at 8.30pm on Tuesday (August 6) and contacted the police before asking her sister to post an urgent appeal on social media.
Once the boy's aunt, who lives in Newton Poppleford, arrived in Ottery with her teenage daughter, she was stunned to find dozens of residents out combing the streets.
She said: "Everywhere we went, we came across people with torches looking for him.
"Vicky Johns, Ottery town councillor, came down and started looking as well.
"It was amazing to see the amount of people that were out looking for him. They were going to Cranbrook and to Sidmouth.
"Someone had even checked the bus station in Exeter."
To help organise the search, Ottery St Mary FC opened its clubhouse, utilising it as a makeshift meeting point where people could identify roads which had not been searched.
The aunt said: "My nephew is a keen footballer, so they put the floodlights on and opened up the venue, so we could regroup and organise where to go."
The gates of Ottery's primary school were opened in case the boy had sought refuge in a classroom.
After a four-hour search, the boy was found close to Otter Nurseries - half a mile away from his home.
The aunt said: "People had spoken to the security guard at Otter Nurseries. Twenty people went there, but whether he was hiding, we don't know.
"When we found him, I just got upset. As it went on, you do start to think bleak thoughts.
"You have to keep it all together - but the moment I saw him, it was just sheer emotion.
"Thank you so much to everyone who helped. I think the community gets a bit of a short shrift from people who do say they are not the community they used to be.
"I would bitterly dispute that - last night was the true meaning of the word 'community'.
"They did not stop, they stayed throughout the whole four-hour search."
The aunt said her nephew was unharmed when he was discovered and was taken home immediately to be warmed up.
His parents told the Herald they want to extend their thanks to the community of Ottery for their help in finding him.