A white ute and items from an abandoned house have been seized during the search for a boy who went missing from a property in the NSW Hunter Region.
As a massive police search for Anthony “AJ” Elfalak entered its third day, his family feared he may have been kidnapped.
A strike force is spearheading the bushland search at Putty, north-west of Sydney, with petrol station CCTV seized and a nearby shack declared an active crime scene.
At this stage, police aren’t commenting on fears he may have been abducted.
Over 100 volunteers on foot, bikes, horseback and in cars joined the search today with choppers scanning the thick bushland overhead for any signs of the young boy, who has non-verbal autism.
“We’ve organised a personal helicopter… we have to ramp it up,” AJ’s father, Anthony Elfalak, told 9News.
NSW Police Superintendent Tracy Chapman today said Strike Force Jaylang was investigating all possible avenues surrounding the disappearance.
Police are focusing on 15 dams on the property, one drained by an excavator this morning with divers wading waist-deep through the murky water.
Forensic police arrived at the property overnight, dusting the Elfalaks’ family home for fingerprints, taking photos and collecting evidence.
A service station at Colo Heights, 45km towards Sydney, is also a site of interest.
CCTV was seized two days ago after the family reported seeing a white Toyota Hilux driving down their private road around the time of AJ’s disappearance.
A number of items have also been seized from an abandoned house 1km south of the farm.
Investigations are now underway into whether somebody may have been squatting at the property, which is an active crime scene.
AJ’s family moved to the area just three months ago and were emotional today, saying it was out of character for him to wander off.
“I just want to find my son, I need to find AJ,” the missing boy’s mother Kelly Elfalak told 9News.
“I’ve searched the property, so many times I’ve searched and I still cannot find him.
“I’m his universe, he holds my hand all day and all night, we are together all the time – something’s not right.”
The family said they spotted a suspicious older model Toyota Hilux on the private road surrounding the property around the same time he went missing.
“I think he’s been taken. He’s been taken. If he was around here I would have found him by now,” Ms Elfalak said.
While an amber alert has not yet been issued by police, all lines of enquiry are being followed as wet weather sets in across the region.
“Really every minute is important, our priority is to just find AJ as quickly as we can,” Superintendent Chapman said.
“Obviously, the terrain is very difficult. We’re in a rural setting, there are various levels of elevation.
“We have been searching some of the dams and waterways.”
There are grave concerns for the boy due to his developmental condition.
The search will continue overnight with police bringing in additional resources for patrols across the property and neighbouring farms and the police helicopter using thermal imaging cameras from up above.
The rural town of Putty is located about two hours north-west of Sydney and is surrounded by bushland.
Police are using trail bikes, police helicopters and divers, and the Dog Unit to urgently try and track down the boy.
Emergency crews are scouring the remote area with the State Emergency Service (SES), Rural Fire Service.
A command post has been set up down the road from the property where about 30 cars of concerned friends and family have gathered.
NSW Police issued a statement insisting assistance from the public was currently not required, reminding people of the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
“There are sufficient emergency services on scene and public assistance is not required at this time,” NSW Police said in a statement.
“This area is deemed regional NSW and travel restrictions under the Public Health Order apply.”
AJ is described as Mediterranean/Middle Eastern in appearance and has short dark hair. He is believed to be wearing a grey jumper, pants and sneakers.