Mikaeel hunt united communities in hope and grief

Floral tributes left at the former home in Dunvegan Avenue, Kirkcaldy, close to where Mikaeel's body was found.

Floral tributes left at the former home in Dunvegan Avenue, Kirkcaldy, close to where Mikaeel's body was found.

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The disappearance and death of young Mikaeel shocked and united the people of Edinburgh in equal measure.

Few had any sense of the tragedy that was about to unfold when news first emerged that a three-year-old boy was missing from his home in the city.

Mikaeel’s mother was said to be “distraught” as a major ground, air and sea search was launched for her son around the family’s flat in Ferry Gait Crescent in the Drylaw area.

Adekoya told police the toddler was last seen going to bed at about 9pm on Wednesday, January 15.

She claimed he was missing when she and her four other children - including Mikaeel’s twin sister - woke the following day at 7.15am.

Early theories ranged from the possibility the youngster had left on his own accord, to speculation about potential custody issues involving the boy’s father.

Inundated by offers of help from worried neighbours, police began to form search parties to comb the area, with hundreds turning up to volunteer.

Many were parents themselves, eager to help in a situation described by one as “every mum’s worst nightmare”.

The volunteers joined hundreds of officers in the hunt, alongside coastguard and lifeboat teams, helicopters, search dogs and the emergency services.

But as the second day of the search wore on with no confirmed sightings, the sense of unease surrounding the circumstances of Mikaeel’s disappearance began to grow.

It emerged that he had not been seen at his nursery since the Christmas break because he had been ill.

Later that evening officers leading the investigation said publicly they were exploring the possibility he had been the victim of a criminal act.

In the early hours of Saturday everyone’s worst fears were confirmed - Mikaeel’s body had been found in Fife shortly before midnight and a person had been detained.

That person was soon revealed to be Adekoya, who would by the end of the day be arrested and charged over the death of her son.

Police sealed off a house in Kirkcaldy’s Dunvegan Avenue belonging to Mikaeel’s aunt, Adekoya’s sister.

Later that day the toddler’s body was removed from woodland behind the house, where neighbours said Adekoya had once lived.

Around 25 miles away across the Firth of Forth, residents who had helped to search for the youngster expressed their shock and sadness.

Hundreds attended a memorial service held at the city’s Muirhouse St Andrew’s Church, while flowers, soft toys and candles piled up near the family’s home.

Crowds also turned out to remember Mikaeel during vigils at Cramond Beach in Edinburgh and Pathhead Sands in Fife - two communities divided by water but united by the tragedy of his death.

Following the hearing, Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Major Crime and Public Protection, said: “Mikaeel’s disappearance and death deeply impacted on his family. It also resonated across the community in which he lived.

“During the initial stages of the inquiry we appealed for information about Mikaeel’s whereabouts as concern for him grew. The local community assisted us greatly in that search. What followed was an incredible level of support and assistance to one of the biggest missing person inquiries Police Scotland has undertaken.

“Resources from across Police Scotland were deployed in the search for Mikaeel. These resources included specialist investigative and search support to local officers from Edinburgh and neighbouring divisions. Over two days officers were joined by members of the public in trying to find any trace of him.

“Sadly our inquiries led us to Kirkcaldy the night after he was reported missing and the discovery of his body.

“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the public for all of their help during the search efforts and the continued support provided to police and Mikaeel’s family during the course of this investigation.