The mum of an autistic boy miraculously found alive 72 hours after he vanished has shut down conspiracies theories about his mysterious disappearance.
There were scenes of jubilation when young Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak was finally located by Pol Air helicopter drinking from a creek on his family’s 256ha rural property in Putty, about 150km north-west of Sydney in the Upper Hunter, on Monday.
The three-year-old had disappeared from his home on at lunchtime on Friday, leading to a desperate search with his parents convinced he was abducted.
AJ is now back home safe and sound following a check-up at Maitland Hospital, and his parents shared a photo of their beautiful boy tucked up in bed fast asleep on Monday night.
Police inquiries are continuing with some senior detectives in the
But AJ’s mother Kelly Elfalak shut down questions on theories about her son’s disappearance when she was asked what she thought of the various scenarios on Tuesday.
AJ’s mum Kelly (pictured) shut down conspiracies theories about his mysterious disappearance when she appeared on the Today show
Young AJ (pictured) slept right through Monday night following his three day disappearance
‘Oh I don’t know. Just many things. I just concentrated on finding him,’ she told the Today show.
‘We found him, he’s safe. I’m happy and I’d just like to thank the police, the RFS, the SES, all the community, everyone that thought of AJ and prayed for him and my family for him to return safely.
‘I want to thank everybody around the world, thank everybody around the world, thank you so much. He’s home, I’m happy, we’re blessed, thank you.’
She then shut abruptly questions about claims from a family friend CCTV footage on their property ‘went missing’ of the time AJ disappeared.
‘I’m not thinking about anything now, I’m happy, and my son’s here. Thank you all very much,’ Ms Elfalak said.
‘He is nice and warm. He’s perfect, he’s happy, he’s healthy, he’s sleeping. I cannot be happier right now. He’s doing amazing.
‘He has just a few cuts and bruises on his legs, on his hands. Other than that, he’s perfect.’
AJ (pictured on Tuesday) is back home safe and sound and has woken from a long night’s rest
Footage has also emerged of AJ awake on Tuesday morning after a long night’s rest, his face still covered in minor scratches from his ordeal.
His family revealed AJ is also still very tired and sore. He ate several slices of pizza, a banana and ice block in the ambulance after being found.
Ms Elfalak recalled the emotional moment she received the news AJ was alive and being reunited with her son for the first time since Friday.
‘I collapsed. I was so happy. I just couldn’t wait to put him in my arms,’ she said.
‘He looked at me and smiled and he held me tight and he slept.’
Ms Elfalak was unable to sleep, eat or drink in the three days AJ was missing as they searched the property.
A number of extended family were still celebrating at the property on Tuesday morning.
They extending an invitation to a shocked Today show host Karl Stefanovic to come by later for a barbecue lunch and scotch, despite current NSW lockdown restrictions.
‘I can’t believe it. Everyone is ecstatic,’ AJ’s uncle said.
‘He slept straight through the night, poor little kid. They found him with a lot of bruises and a lot of scratches.’
As police continue their investigation, all AJ’s family cares about now is that he’s safe
Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak was missing for 72 hours before he was miraculously found alive after being spotted 500m from the family home by a rescue helicopter
The Elfalak family with father Anthony, mother Kelly, AJ (pictured centre) and two of his brothers were delighted to be reunited with the three-year-old on Monday
Earlier on the Today show, NSW Superintendent Tracey Chapman said wombat holes and access to water helped increase AJ’s chances of survival.
When asked about the speculation surrounding the disappearance she said: ‘We are certainly happy with where things are at the moment.
‘We’ll continue that investigation to be entirely comfortable but from our perspective it’s simply a good- news story. We have a three-year- old boy who many people probably expected was not alive and he’s been located and been returned to his family.’
Raising questions for seasoned investigators is how the toddler, who has autism and is non-verbal, survived without anything to eat for 72 hours in temperatures that dropped to 2C, emerging with just a few scratches from three nights alone in the harsh terrain.
Police are also baffled that the child turned up in the creek just 500 meters away from the family’s home, evading highly-trained sniffer dogs since Friday as well as a helicopter fitted with infrared technology and hundreds of searchers scouring the nearby bush.
A white ute was also reported to have driven away from the property around the time AJ disappeared, with a similar vehicle seized by police on Sunday, as well as CCTV from a service station 40km away.
There are also claims more crucial CCTV footage had ‘gone missing’ at the rural property with family friend Alan Hashem, who was at the property at the time AJ went missing, claiming that someone may have tampered with security cameras he had installed on a tree high above the remote bushland road outside the home.
Mr Hashem said footage was now missing during the four-hour window when AJ vanished.
‘How did he leave, who did he leave with? Did anything sinister happen? These are questions that need to still be answered and we will not stop until we actually find the truth,’ he said on Monday.
AJ (pictured in the ambulance) with reunited with his parents and brothers before being taken to Singleton Hospital – but police are still investigating
Father Anthony Elfalak and mother Kelly Elfalak (pictured together) moved to the rural property earlier this year with their children
He also explained that the cameras set up in the area were installed high enough to make them near-impossible to tamper with, but somehow the crucial footage was missing.
‘There’s one key factor and this is probably the first time I actually mentioned this, I installed cameras on that post right there,’ he told the Today show on Monday.
‘There’s footage missing, unexplained. (We have footage from) days before, days after, but not during the time.
‘You know what’s more alarming? We installed it so high you can’t tamper with it and we had two mechanisms of storage – cloud storage and physical storage – and there’s no data in that time slot.
‘We provided the user name and password to the police, we provided them the actual original memory card. There’s a lot of explaining to do.’
The claims come as it’s revealed Strike Force Raptor police, tasked with investigating the murky world of bikie crime, was ‘among the groups assisting with the missing persons investigation’ from the very beginning.
AJ is comforted by a SES volunteer (pictured on Monday) after he was found drinking water from a creek and brought to safety
Three-year-old ‘AJ’ Elfalak (pictured) disappeared from a rural property on Friday but was found drinking from a creek bed 500m from his family home on Monday – raising questions about how he survived
His father Anthony Elfalak said the rural property has been a ‘sanctuary’ for their family for eight years, but they didn’t consider moving there permanently until recently, when they were desperate to escape the spiralling Covid outbreak in Sydney.
Property records indicate the land was purchased in November 2016 by Ms Elfalak and two associates, Michael and Katia Mallouhi, for just $30,000.
The figure is more than ten times less than the property sold for when it last went under the hammer in October 2014 for $320,000.
Superintendent Tracy Chapman on Monday afternoon acknowledged: ‘I know everyone has lots of questions.’
Family and friends rush towards the waiting ambulance on Monday (pictured), where AJ was being assessed after he was found in a nearby creek drinking water
Family and friends at the property embrace on Monday (pictured) following confirmation AJ was found alive
‘So we need to try to understand what has occurred over the past three days,’ she said.
‘I don’t understand what has happened with some CCTV footage, however, it is subsequently part of our inquiries.’
His mother Kelly initially claimed she feared AJ was ‘abducted’ saying that he was ‘not a wanderer’ and would not have ventured off alone.
It took the family two hours to tell police they saw a mysterious white ute on the property earlier that day, that was later seized by police.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting that any family members were involved in the potential abduction.
Police are investigating how AJ (pictured) survived in rugged bushland for four days without food in almost freezing temperatures before being found safe and well
AJ’s relieved mum Kelly (pictured) collapsed to the ground after being told her son had been found alive on Monday
Police seized a white ute from a nearby property on Sunday (pictured) during their search for AJ
There were jubilant scenes on Monday when the little boy was spotted drinking from the muddy creek by a rescue helicopter.
He was soon reunited with his distraught mother, who cried as she finally got to hold her little boy.
Relatives and friends celebrated triumphantly upon the news rescuers had found AJ, who later gulped down pizza and a banana provided by search teams.
His family put out a statement on Monday, thanking those who helped find AJ.
‘Our family is together again. For that we are grateful to everyone who has assisted in any way over the last three days,’ they said.
‘Thank you to the NSW Police, Rescue Services, volunteers, community members, friends and family who have worked tirelessly to find AJ.
‘AJ is fine. Hold your kids close.
‘Please give our family the privacy to appreciate what we have.’
TIMELINE OF LITTLE AJ’S DISAPPEARENCE
• AJ Elfalak reported missing at 11.45am on Friday while playing with his three brothers. The 650-acre property is off Yengo Drive, Putty, and is only accessible by dirt track with the home surrounded by thick bush and 15 dams.
• His mother, Kelly Elfalak, says he might have been abducted – as 50 family members join the search with 200 volunteers in the search for AJ.
• One dam is drained by excavator and police drivers also search other nearby waterways as the desperate search continues. A mysterious Ford Ranger ute was seized by police investigators at Bulga, a village which is north-east of where he was last seen. The abandoned property, about one kilometre south of the property, was also searched on Sunday as police confirmed a criminal investigation was underway. They also seized CCTV footage from a service station at Colo Heights, which is about 40 minutes drive south of Putty towards Sydney.
• Elfalak family spokesman, Alan Hashem, claims CCTV footage of him going missing was erased.
- Several hours later around 11.45am, police release a statement saying he’s been found, with PolAir find him sitting in a creek 500 metres from the property. AJ is carried by SES volunteers to an ambulance, where he is reunited with his family and assessed by paramedics. He was later taken to Maitland Hospital and returned home later on Monday night.
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