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Time running out for drip-fed boy with cancer after parents remove him from hospital and flee UK

By Alex Diaz, Tom Pugh and David Mercer

The battery on the feeding system of a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who was taken from hospital by his parents without consent is "now likely to have expired", police said.

Ashya King's family took him from Southampton General Hospital at around 2pm on Thursday and travelled on a ferry to France some two hours later.

Hampshire Constabulary were told by the hospital that the youngster was missing at 8.35pm on Thursday – more than six hours after he was taken by his parents, Jehovah's Witnesses Brett King (51) and Naghemeh King (45).

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said last night: "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."

Mr Shead added: "With each hour that passes our concern for him grows."

The youngster is in a wheelchair and is fed through a tube. He has undergone "extensive surgery", with his last operation seven days ago.

"Time is running out for this little boy. We need to find him and we need to find him urgently," Mr Shead told a Press conference.

Last night he warned that the family could have reached other countries beyond France by now.

He added: "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 inquiries 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."

The Kings boarded a cross-Channel ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg with Ashya's six siblings at 4pm on Thursday and arrived in France at 8pm local time.

The family, who live in Southsea, are travelling in a grey Hyundai I800 Style CRDI, registration KP60 HWK.

Ashya is likely to be in a wheelchair or buggy, he cannot communicate verbally and is immobile, a police spokesman said.

Mr Shead said the six-and-a-half-hour gap between Ashya being taken from hospital and police being called would be considered "further down the line".

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust 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".

Although Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, a spokesman said there was "absolutely no indication" that the family's decision was "motivated by any religious convictions".

Police have said their "total focus" is on finding Ashya and his parents are not under criminal investigation.

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