CHERBOURG, France: Interpol issued a global alert Friday for a 5-year-old boy with a brain tumor snatched from hospital by his family, as authorities said only hours remained to save his life.
Ashya King’s parents took him Thursday from hospital in the southern British city of Southampton without doctors’ consent and boarded a ferry to the French port of Cherbourg.
It is not yet known why Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, took their son. While they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, the movement said Friday there was no indication that their decision was motivated by religious convictions.
“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.
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.”
Another police spokesman, Chris Shead, said the boy was being fed through a tube, adding: “The feeding system is battery operated and that battery will run out today.”
“Time is running out for this little boy. We need to find him and we need to find him urgently.”
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.”
“The information we have received from his medical team at Southampton General Hospital is that he must continue to be fed via a tube by someone with the relevant medical training,” Shead said.
“If he doesn’t receive urgent medical care, or the wrong treatment is given, his condition will become life-threatening,” Shead said.
Cherbourg prosecutor Eric Bouillard said authorities believed he was “kidnapped given the circumstances of his departure from hospital.”
“For the moment, what we most want to do is contact the family,” Bouilard added.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for refusing blood transfusions on religious grounds, but they are otherwise open to other medical procedures.
The religious movement confirmed that the parents are members.
“However, we are not aware of the facts of the case nor the reasons for the family’s medical choices which are personal decisions,” it said in a statement.
“There is absolutely no indication, as far as we are aware, that their decision is in any way motivated by any religious convictions. Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to seek the best medical treatment for themselves and their children.”
Appealing directly to the family, Shead said: “Our message to you is, ‘Please take Ashya to the nearest hospital immediately.’”
French authorities told AFP the family arrived Thursday night with their seven children and were driving a gray Hyundai with the number plate KP60 HWK.
The other six children are between 3 and 22 years old.