"Time is running out" for a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who was taken without consent from hospital by his parents as the battery on his feeding system runs out today, police have said today as a desperate appeal was launched for his safe return.
Police have warned there are "serious concerns" for Ashya King's life after his family took him from Southampton General Hospital at around 2pm yesterday and travelled on a ferry to France some two hours later, according to police.
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.
Officers said his parents - Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, - boarded a cross-Channel ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg at 4pm yesterday with Ashya's six siblings and arrived in France at 8pm local time.
Speaking at a press conference, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: "It is vital that we find Ashya today. His health will deteriorate rapidly."
He added: "Ashya is in a wheelchair and is fed through a tube. The feeding system is battery operated and that battery will run out today.
"Time is running out for this little boy. We need to find him and we need to find him urgently."
The family, who live in St David's Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, are travelling in a grey-coloured Hyundai I800 Style CRDI, registration KP60 HWK, and are still believed to be in France.
Ashya is likely to be in a wheelchair or buggy, he cannot communicate verbally and is immobile, a police spokesman said.
Hampshire Constabulary said the force was working with its counterparts in France to locate the family "as soon as possible".
A spokesman said: "If we do not locate Ashya today there are serious concerns for his life.
"He is receiving constant medical care within the UK due to recent surgery and ongoing medical issues.
"Without this specialist 24-hour care Ashya is at risk of additional health complications which place him at substantial risk."
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."
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.
In another YouTube video posted earlier this month, Naveed said his family had been staying in a "charity home" and he was visiting his brother twice a day in hospital.
A spokeswoman for Portsmouth City Council said the family was not known to them.
Detective Superintendent Dick Pearson, of the Hampshire Major Investigation Team, said Ashya "needs to be taken to a medical facility for his urgent health requirements as soon as he is located.
"We have also launched a social media appeal and would urge everyone to share this appeal, particularly if you have friends and relatives in France and bordering countries."
On Twitter, police forces are using the hashtag #FindAshya.
Please help us find Ashya King. Contact Hampshire Constabulary asap on 101 quoting Operation Aquilion. Please RT #FindAshya— Hampshire Police (@HantsPolice) August 29, 2014
A spokesman for Brittany Ferries confirmed the family had travelled on board its cross-Channel ferry and the company was assisting Hampshire Police with its inquiries.
An image of Ashya being wheeled out of the hospital by his father has been released by police.
The spokesman also confirmed the family had declared they were travelling with a child with "special medical needs" at the time of booking.
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment on the incident.
Anyone with information about Ashya's whereabouts should contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101, quoting Operation Aquilion.