Garda tip-off led Interpol to Spanish hideout of family with sick youngster
Published 01/09/2014 | 02:30
A TIP-off from gardai helped Interpol track down a family who took their seriously-ill five-year-old boy out of hospital without permission.
Officers in Dublin contacted the international policing agency after receiving information that the Kings were regular visitors to an apartment in the Costa del Sol.
Ashya's parents took him from Southampton General Hospital last week and travelled on a ferry to France with the boy and his six siblings before heading south to Spain.
On Saturday night Brett King (51) and Naghemeh King (45) were arrested in Velez-Malaga by Spanish police acting on a European arrest warrant. The Irish Independent understands gardai played a significant role in the search moving to Spain.
A garda source said: "We received information and realised the urgency of the situation. We immediately contacted Interpol for the attention of UK and Spanish police, and on that basis Interpol issued their alert."
British police last night defended their decision to launch an international search.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead, of Hampshire Constabulary, said he was aware the police's approach had created a "significant amount of debate".
He said: "We had medical experts telling us that Ashya was in grave danger. Medical experts were saying to us that if he didn't get the care that he needed, there was a potential threat to his life. Faced with those circumstances, I make no apology for the police being as proactive as we possibly could be in acting to find Ashya and ensuring that he gets the help he needs."
Ashya's father, Brett King, had said the family was hoping to get to the Czech Republic, having been dismayed by attempts to treat his son on the NHS.
They had been seeking proton beam radiotherapy for their son, but in the UK it is only available for treating eye conditions. Countries throughout Europe, however, use proton beam treatment for a range of cancers in adults and children. According to Cancer Research UK, the treatment differs from X-ray methods by aiming proton beams at cancers. In a video blog posted on YouTube prior to his arrest in Spain, Mr King said he was prepared to raise the money to pay for his son's treatment in Europe.
Following Mr King's remarks, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said it had offered Ashya's family access to a second opinion on the boy's treatment and proposed helping with organising treatment abroad.
A spokesman said: "We are aware of the comments made online by his father. Our priority has always been Ashya's welfare and we are delighted that he has been found. We are now working closely with colleagues in Malaga to ensure he receives the essential medical support he needs."
Mr King and his wife are expected to appear in court today. A team of British detectives have flown to the Spanish resort and it is understood that an extradition warrant is being sought.
Ashya's grandmother, Patricia King, said she was "very, very angry" at the way the investigation had been handled, saying: "It has been taken too far."