Time running out for 'kidnapped' brain tumour boy

Cherbourg - British and French authorities were racing against time on Friday to find a desperately ill five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who officials believe was "kidnapped" from hospital by his family.

Ashya King's parents took him on Thursday from hospital in the southern British city of Southampton without doctors' consent and boarded a ferry to the French port of Cherbourg on the same day.

It is not yet known why Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, took their son and while they are Jehovah's Witnesses, the movement said on Friday there was no indication their decision was motivated by religious convictions.

"It is vital that we find Ashya today. His health will deteriorate rapidly," Chris Shead, a spokesperson for police in Hampshire, southern England, told reporters.

"Ashya is in a wheelchair and is fed through a tube. The feeding system is battery operated and that battery will run out today," he said.

"Time is running out for this little boy. We need to find him and we need to find him urgently."

According to Eric Bouillard, a prosecutor in Cherbourg, Ashya's life is in danger if he does not get medical treatment within 12 hours.

In a statement, the hospital in Southampton said Ashya was allowed to leave the ward under his parents' supervision and hospital staff raised the alarm when the length of his absence "became a cause of concern".

"The information we have received from his medical team at Southampton General Hospital is that he must continue to be fed via a tube by someone with the relevant medical training," Shead said.

"If he doesn't receive urgent medical care, or the wrong treatment is given, his condition will become life-threatening."

Plea to his parents

Bouillard told AFP authorities believed he was "kidnapped given the circumstances of his departure from hospital".

"For the moment, what we most want to do is contact the family," he added.

Jehovah's Witnesses are known for refusing blood transfusions on religious grounds, but they are otherwise open to other medical procedures.

The religious movement confirmed on Friday that the parents are members.

"However, we are not aware of the facts of the case nor the reasons for the family's medical choices which are personal decisions," it said in a statement.

"There is absolutely no indication, as far as we are aware, that their decision is in any way motivated by any religious convictions. Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to seek the best medical treatment for themselves and their children."

Appealing directly to the family, Shead said: "Our message to you is, 'Please take Ashya to the nearest hospital immediately.'"

"We understand this must be an awful time for you but the most important thing is to get the proper medical care for Ashya. Please work with us to provide Ashya that care."

French authorities told AFP the family arrived on Thursday night with their seven children and were driving a grey Hyundai with the number plate KP60 HWK.

The other six children are between three and 22 years old. A phone number - 0800 35 83 35 - has been set up for anyone with information.