A LURGAN family have thanked those who turned out in force to help in the hunt for a missing boy on Thursday night.
Joshua Gillen went missing from his Birchdale Manor home after returning from his grandmother’s house at around 7.30pm.
The six-year-old King’s Park pupil known to his friends and family as Jojo turned up safe and well at around 11.30pm, but not before giving his family a serious scare.
His mum Sarah said: “We had just come back from my mother-in-law’s house. We were getting the wee one (Joshua’s four-year-old brother Luca) ready for bed and he (Joshua) must have gone out to play.
His dad Robert added: “He’s always out in the street playing or round at a friend’s house. Because it was raining we just assumed he was indoors with one of his friends.
“When he hadn’t come home by 8.30pm I started to get a bit worried, but at the same time I thought he’d be at a friend’s house. I went out round the estate and was calling his name, but didn’t get any response.
“After it got past nine, the police were called and my daughter (Nicole) put a post up on Facebook about Joshua.” Sarah recalled: “The police arrived along with dogs that I think they’d brought down from Belfast.
“They were round the doors and were searching the fields behind us. They were particularly concerned about the quarry behind us.”
Robert continued: “I was out round the estate again shouting for him. Some of the neighbours came out to help. Then some cars turned up asking if we needed their help. They were strangers who’d seen the post on Facebook and wanted to help. There was one car load had come from D-Bee’s (off licence) on the Portadown Road after seeing the post on Facebook.
“The post that Nicole put up was shared something like 900 times. We couldn’t believe the response.
“One guy got them to open the park so he could drive round.”
Robert said: “Every 15 minutes that went past I started getting more panicky. Half of me was saying he’d be okay and half of me was thinking bad thoughts. We’d had a letter home from King’s Park reminding parents to talk to the children about stranger danger. That was playing on my mind.”
At around 11.30pm Joshua’s family got the news they’d been praying for when their boy turned up safe and well.
His father told the ‘MAIL’ where his son had been: “It turns out he was in one of the houses just behind us. He was with one of his friends. They’d been playing upstairs and his friend’s dad, who works shifts, had fallen asleep.
“He’d woken up when the police called at the door. He’d no idea of the time. The boys had been playing upstairs all that time and had no idea of the panic that was going on outside.”
Sarah commented: “His wee brother was in bed and slept through all the drama. Thankfully he didn’t know a thing about it.”
Robert said: “It’s fair to say Jojo caused a bit of a stir. We’ve talked to him about it and stressed how important it is for him to tell us where he’s going and who he’s with and make sure he takes his phone with him.”
Sarah commented: “We’re totally overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness. It just proved to me that Lurgan has got a real sense of community about it and people willing to help in times of crisis.”
By way of an apology Joshua made a Mother’s Day card at school on Friday. On it he wrote that for a Mother’s Day present he was going to give his mum “a good night’s sleep and never scare her again”.