One by one they arrived through the doors of the North Edinburgh Arts Centre. Pensioners, young men, mothers with prams...they kept arriving - brought together by a common purpose, a determination to find Mikaeel.
Almost as soon as the news broke, residents in a community packed with young families sprang into action.
People spoke of their shock at the news, and remembered regularly seeing the young family – Mikaeel, his twin sister and three older siblings – happily playing in a nearby park.
The quiet street on which they live was turned upside down as forensic teams dusted down windowsills for fingertips and sealed up the door of the modest block of flats where Mikaeel and his family live.
As the police went door to door hoping for the smallest clues as to what had happened to the little boy, the drone of helicopters could be heard overhead.
Bewildered residents looked on – some hanging out of windows, some gathered outside their homes – hoping to get an idea of what was going on. The search had barely begun before arrangements were made to transform a nearby community centre into a hub for action.
Dozens of residents – distress etched on their faces – filed through the doors of the arts centre.Many had already taken it upon themselves to scour the area after learning of the missing boy at first light.
Acting Inspector David Happs told the crowd: “Mikaeel’s more than capable of walking a reasonable distance so that’s why we’re looking to extend the search.
“Make sure you’re looking in the bushes, under wood, around the golf course. Speak to people – if you see them in the street ask them to look in their own gardens, sheds and outbuildings, in common stairs.
“The passage of time is concerning, so that’s why I’m keen we do as much as we can while we have daylight hours.
“It’s great to see the community spirit here and I know you are all keen to help.”
Grandmother Linda Slattie, 52, had been out early that morning to head to her work as a general cleaner. Later, she joined a four-strong search party.
She said: “We looked in bushes, in bins, everywhere we could think of.
“A group of us are thinking about going back out tonight – my husband even went out looking on his bike.”
Another resident said: “I was shouting out telling him that his mum was looking for him and not to be scared, but there was nothing.”
And sadly as time went on, not a single person reported seeing Mikaeel.
The search parties returned to the centre hoping for good news, but were left disappointed.
As darkness fell and the temperature dropped, their efforts redoubled and they headed out in even greater numbers than before to join police searching through the night. Mothers headed out with torches ignoring police advice to go home.
At Flora Stevenson Primary, where Mikaeel goes to nursery, parents reacted with shock as police officers descended on the school to conduct a fingertip search.
Ten officers armed with flashlights began scouring the area shortly before 5pm.
Earlier that day, parents had been informed of Mikaeel’s disappearance in an e-mail from headteacher Irene Brennan in which she also assured them that there was no suggestion he had come to harm whilst in the school.
But hours later police officers carried out a detailed search of the grounds lasting more than an hour and a half. Bins, bushes and undergrowth were all searched and officers left the school shortly after 6.30pm. A police source said: “It’s basically belt and braces, everywhere related to the boy has to be checked, searched and ruled out.”
Taxi driver George Winton took part in initial searches for Mikaeel.
He said: “We were asked by the police to help out in looking around Silverknowes and Muirhouse. I was only too happy to help.
“I thought he’d turn up soon enough but as the day has gone on you realise it’s getting very serious, especially when there are search and rescue teams everywhere looking in every place.”
William Cairns, 57, from Drylaw, said: “When it’s so close to home you really feel it. That he’s lost somewhere is the scenario you’d hope for, but the longer it goes on the more you worry.”