An 18-month old boy wandered barefoot through the streets for several hours after escaping the family home through a cat flap.
The incident took place in the town of Torquay, in the south-western English county of Devon, according to the Sun. The boy’s parents apparently did not notice that he was missing and were oblivious to his plight until police knocked on their front door.
The boy is believed to have been outside for several hours before a worried neighbor spotted him and took him in. He said the boy was cold, pale, and confused and he gave him warm clothes and shoes while allowing him to play with his own 3-year old daughter while he called the police.
The boy’s parents, a woman in her 40s and a man in his 30s, have been arrested for child neglect and bailed pending further investigation. They are believed to have been “struggling to cope” since the father suffered brain damage in a motorbike accident 10 years ago.
A family member told the Sun that British social services are now involved and have given the family a list of requirements they need to fulfill if they want to keep custody of their children. “They have got to nail the cat flap shut until the boy gets a bit bigger,” the boy’s Uncle explained. “As it is, he was able to squeeze through it and he was off.
“They’re hiring them a huge skip and (the dad) has been told to throw all his junk into it to make the house safer,” he went on.
“He is a hoarder and he has so much stuff in there. They’ve also got to clean all the carpets and get everything tidy.”
Another relative gave further insight into the families predicament. “[The mother] had a lot of trouble giving birth to (the toddler) and she nearly lost her own life,” the relative said.
“She’s taken on too much. She has been fighting a losing battle for quite a while now.”
But neighbors of the family contradicted this story of a good-hearted family fallen on tough times. “The family are big drinkers,” one neighbor told the Sun. “Every week, there’s a huge pile of empty booze bottles stacked up outside the front door,” the neighbor added. He also said that their children made unbearable noise every night of the week.
Police left the boy with the Collins family who found him while they searched for his real parents. He was then taken to hospital for safeguarding. However, the Collins family said they are willing to foster him while his parents deal with their own issues.
Mr Collins said, “My little girl cried when the little boy left, as she thought he was here for good. I don’t know what will happen to [him], but we would be willing to foster him while they sort it out.”
A spokesperson for the local Devon and Cornwall Police said in a statement that “the child was taken into police protection and is safe and well.”