A missing teenager found unconscious in Lisburn had been repeatedly kicked in the head and face and left for dead, police have said.
Scott Vineer, who is autistic, is fighting for his life in hospital with serious head injuries.
He was reported missing on Thursday night by his mother after he failed to return home from college. The 17-year-old was discovered lying unconscious almost 24 hours later in the grounds of a disused furniture showroom in the city.
Police are trying to piece together what happened to Scott between 3.35pm on Thursday, when he was last seen, and 9pm on Friday night when he was found by a PSNI dog handler.
They are analysing mobile phone data, CCTV footage and forensic evidence in a bid to catch Scott’s attacker.
Chief Inspector Darrin Jones said this was a “brutal and senseless attack on a vulnerable young man” and appealed for anyone who may have seen Scott after 3.35pm on Thursday to contact police.
“We know local people are disgusted by what has happened and want to do anything they can to help us bring those responsible for this sickening attack to justice,” he said.
“That is why I am asking anyone with any scrap of information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to contact us. Help us find those responsible.”
Police are still uncertain as to why he was targeted.
At the time he disappeared Scott, who is 6ft 3ins, of heavy build, clean shaven with short dark hair, was wearing a dark hooded jacket with a blue T-shirt underneath, dark trousers and a dark beanie hat with an emblem on the front.
Paul Givan, DUP MLA for the Lisburn area, said the local community is outraged by the attack.
“Everyone wants to see the perpetrator of this terrible crime brought to justice as quickly as possible,” the justice committee chairman added.