A frantic police search for a five-year-old British boy with a brain tumour who was taken from hospital by his parents without doctors’ consent, as fears for his life intensified with every passing hour.
In a new lead, the British police said on Saturday that the family could now be in Spain.
The police said they had “positive information” to suggest that Ashya King and his family could be in Spain where they have “strong links” to the Marbella area.
It is not known why Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, took their son.
King’s parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, drove him away from Southampton hospital in southern England on Thursday and were seen boarding a ferry to Cherbourg, France.
The youngster, who has undergone extensive surgery and was last operated on seven days ago, is fed through a tube on a battery-operated system.
British and French police have been searching for the boy and a French prosecutor said the youngster had effectively been “kidnapped”.
Interpol has also launched a missing persons alert following a request from British police, who warned that the batteries on King’s feeding system would run out on Friday.
“There are serious concerns for Ashya’s health, he is immobile and likely to be in a wheelchair or buggy, and cannot communicate verbally,” Interpol said in a statement.
The missing persons alert went out to all 190 Interpol member countries, dramatically stepping up the hunt for the missing child.
“The need to find Ashya is now desperate. It is really important that we find him and ensure he receives medical attention,” said Chris Shead, deputy police chief in Hampshire, the region where the boy was taken from.
“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.
“With each hour that passes our concern for him grows.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for refusing blood transfusions on religious grounds, but are otherwise open to other medical procedures.
The group said there was no indication that the boy’s parents had been motivated by religious convictions and appealed to them to seek the best medical treatment for him.
Detective superintendent Dick Pearson from police in Hampshire, southern England, who is leading the investigation, said: “If we do not locate Ashya today there are serious concerns for his life.”
Hampshire Police assistant chief constable Chris Shead said late Friday: “We have been told by medical experts that the battery life on the machine that administers his food is now likely to have expired.
In a statement, the hospital in Southampton said 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”.
Cherbourg prosecutor Eric Bouillard said the authorities considered the boy had been “kidnapped given the circumstances of his departure from hospital”.
“For the moment, what we most want to do is contact the family,” he added.
Appealing directly to the family, 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.”
Though they sailed to France, Shead raised the possibility that they could have reached other countries by now.
French authorities said the family arrived on Thursday night with their seven children and were driving a grey Hyundai with the number plate KP60 HWK.
The other six children are between three and 22 years old. A phone number – 0800 3583 35 – has been set up for anyone with information.