Strangers find boy after mum's Facebook plea

By Amy Shanks -
2 comments
Ten-year-old Bailey Langley, from Hastings, pictured at home in Akina with his mother Renee O'Keefe, after a search party of strangers banded together to find him. Photo/Glenn Taylor
Ten-year-old Bailey Langley, from Hastings, pictured at home in Akina with his mother Renee O'Keefe, after a search party of strangers banded together to find him. Photo/Glenn Taylor

A mother's desperate Facebook post asking for help to find a missing child resulted in the boy's safe return when concerned strangers banded together to look for him.

Minutes after she made her plea on "Boycott Online Garage Sale Hastings/Napier" last Thursday, messages began flooding in and before long locals had formed an impromptu search party.

Renee O'Keefe recently moved to Hastings from New Plymouth with her 10-year-old son Bailey and did not know anyone except family - so when he left their Akina home "in a grump" at 7.45pm and failed to return - she feared the worst.

"He had never run away before, if we were still in New Plymouth he could have been at this friend's house, or that friend's house, here he doesn't know anybody," she said.

After calling police, who assured her they would keep an eye out, the pregnant mother could do little but sit and wait.

"I wasn't sure whether to post it on Facebook, then I thought, why not? The posts from people when he was missing were incredible, some people couldn't sleep until he was found.

"I'm so happy I did it, without them I would not have found my son that night - I had people apologising if they couldn't go out and look - they started suggesting places he might be."

As people "shared" the post and word spread, more community members joined in the hunt both in vehicles and by foot.

Shantell Pihama was a driving force behind the mission asking: "What areas so we can go driving around, reading this as a parent I can't sleep."

She later added, "a couple car loads of us are gunna go look at the park and schools in the area, this boy knows no one, so other people, if you can go looking to do it, because if it was our own babies we would want the same. Please keep us posted if he is found."

In the end, 10 cars split up to patrol Hastings' central business district, fast food outlets and popular parks as well as streets surrounding his home.

Ms O'Keefe was receiving mail from people in New Plymouth, saying her message about Bailey had popped up on their news feed, and it was the same story with friends in Auckland and Wellington.

Thanks to the power of social media and an amazing show of community spirit, he was found by a member of the search party sitting alone outside a Four Square on Heretaunga St East about 1am, more than five hours after he walked out the door.

"I'm still buzzing about it. I didn't expect that kind of response. I didn't expect 10 people to comment, let alone hundreds.

"They were better than the police, they were out there searching all over. I am just so thankful to them."

Bailey had not been harmed but was "in shock", not realising the full ramifications of his actions.

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