A missing five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who was taken from hospital by his parents against doctors' advice may be in Spain, police have 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.
Police were told by the hospital that the youngster was missing at 8.35pm that day - more than six hours after he was taken by his parents, Jehovah's Witnesses Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45.
In a desperate race against time, Hampshire Constabulary has launched a "major investigation", for the boy's safe return as he needs constant medical care following recent major surgery.
Hampshire Constabulary today said they had "positive information" to suggest that Ashya's family may now be in Spain where they have "strong links" to the Marbella area.
Police said they are now working closely with Spanish authorities to find Ashya.
The search widened considerably yesterday as Interpol sent out a missing persons alert to each of its 190 member countries.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said that the need to find Ashya is now "desperate".
"It is really important that we find him and ensure he receives medical attention at the earliest opportunity," he said.
"We still don't know whether the King family have any spare batteries for the machine which administers food, the knowledge, or any way of recharging the battery.
"Without properly administered food Ashya's situation is very serious.
"We still urge everyone to please help us find him."
The family, from Southsea, are travelling in a grey Hyundai I800 Style CRDI, registration KP60 HWK.
Police have warned that the battery-operated feeding system "is likely to have expired" and his health will "deteriorate rapidly" without urgent medical care.
"Time is running out for this little boy," Mr Shead said. "We need to find him and we need to find him urgently."
Ashya is likely to be in a wheelchair or buggy, he cannot communicate verbally and is immobile, a police spokesman said.
A family friend claimed Ashya's family had "run away in desperation" because they cannot accept nothing can be done for their son.
On Hampshire Constabulary's Facebook page, Katie Fletcher wrote: "This is my mother's friend, she has run away in desperation because they cannot accept that there is nothing that can be done for their son and want to look for help abroad.
"Please don't judge, they are a very sweet loving family and I can only believe they are doing this because they want to help their son."
In an emotional video posted on YouTube last month, Ashya's older brother Naveed King said the young boy had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and was undergoing emergency surgery.
"I have not slept anything, I have been awake worrying," he says in the heartbreaking video.
Speaking into the camera in a message directly to Ashya, he said: "I just want to say that we love you so much, we are all here for you, everyone is sending their love on Facebook, everyone is praying for you, we just want to see your smile again."
"No kid at the age of five deserves to have a brain tumour."
"Let's just hope the doctors know what they're doing and they know exactly where to operate and what to take out, and they take everything out and you can be better.
"And when we look back in 10 years' time when you're 15, we can actually see that things have changed for the better. Just because they're bad at one point doesn't mean they'll always be bad.
"I love you so much. I can't wait to see you."
Naveed, whose Instagram profile says he is 20, describes himself as a Jehovah's Witness on the social networking site.
Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds but are open to other medical procedures.
The Office of Public Information for Jehovah's Witnesses confirmed that Ashya's parents were also followers of the religious movement.
A spokesman said: "We can confirm that the parents of Ashya King are Jehovah's Witnesses. However, we are not aware of the facts of the case nor the reasons for the family's medical choices, which are personal decisions.
"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."
Police have said their "total focus" is on finding Ashya and his parents are not under criminal investigation.
On August 18, Naveed posted an update on Facebook signed "King family", saying Ashya had been "progressing slowly but continuously with only minor problems along the way".
The post included several pictures, one showing Ashya with his mother and another of a large stitched wound at the back of the boy's head and neck.
Ashya's paternal grandmother, Patricia King, said his parents were "wonderful" and had been left beside themselves at their child's plight.
Speaking from her home in Southsea yesterday, she said of her son: "He's the most caring and wonderful father you could ever have. The kids love him."
She also praised her daughter-in-law, saying she had kept a bedside vigil while Ashya was in hospital.
"We are a very close family," she added.
Ms King said she last spoke to her son "quite a while ago", adding: "He wouldn't have told me anything because he wouldn't want me to know anything in case I got involved in it all."
She said she did not know whether Ashya's illness was terminal, saying: "I knew he was seriously ill, we all knew that."Suggest a correction