A HUGE hunt was on last night to trace a "friendly, playful" three-year-old boy who vanished from his bedroom in the middle of the night, leaving his family devastated.
Mikaeel Kular normally shared a room with his twin sister at home in Edinburgh.
On Wednesday night, at around 9pm, his mother put him into his favourite dinosaur pyjamas and tucked him into bed alone. When she went to rouse him at 7.15am yesterday, he was gone, along with his coat and shoes.
What must be the worst conceivable nightmare of every parent had become horrifyingly true for the Kular family, as police issued a nationwide alert amid mounting fears for the welfare of the missing toddler.
At the centre of the investigation is how a three-year-old child, small for his age, who has never gone missing before and who is described as a "friendly, playful wee boy", apparently managed to dress himself and walk out of the flat in a block on a modern housing estate -- opening heavy security and fire doors as he went.
Dozens of friends and neighbours of the family spent the day alongside police with sniffer dogs searching gardens, outbuildings, wheelie bins and open spaces near the family home that the toddler shared with his mother and four siblings in the Drylaw area of Edinburgh.
White-suited forensic teams examined the flat and surrounding area for traces of the missing youngster.
As darkness fell on another cold winter night in the Scottish capital the search for the boy was being extended to the Firth of Forth, where lifeboats were scouring the shoreline.
Police said that Mikaeel, who is of British-Pakistani origin, may have still been in his pyjamas, which are embroidered with a distinctive turquoise dinosaur.
Detectives said they were pursuing all possible lines of inquiry but added that they had "no evidence of criminal activity".
Police Scotland Superintendent Liz McAinsh, who is leading the hunt, said that all "key" members of the family, including Mikaeel's Pakistani-born father, had been spoken to, and that no arrests had been made.
She added that there were no formal suspects because there was no evidence of wrongdoing and the boy's disappearance was being treated as a missing-person inquiry.
A number of individuals, however, were assisting police as events unfolded, during a tense day.
"As you can imagine, Mikaeel's mother is distraught. She just wants our help and the public's help in finding her little boy," said Ms McAinsh.
She added that she had been assured by the boy's mother that he was capable of dressing himself and that he could get in and out of the property on his own.
"Three-year-old children are quite resilient and they have quite a great deal of strength and ability to open doors, and I'm assured that Mikaeel is capable of doing that," Ms McAinsh added.