x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Parents face charges after leaving child, 3, in car and forgetting where they parked

Three-year-old boy left unattended in his parent's car in Sharjah for hours while they visited a shopping mall, sparking a police search and social media campaign.

A forensics expert from Sharjah Police inspects a vehicle in the Al Qassimiyah area of Sharjah where police found the child.
A forensics expert from Sharjah Police inspects a vehicle in the Al Qassimiyah area of Sharjah where police found the child.

SHARJAH // A couple face criminal charges after they left their son, 3, in the car while they went shopping, then forgot where they had parked.

The little boy was alone in the car for about two hours before the vehicle was tracked down by police.

The parents, from Afghanistan, had left him in their family car with the engine running while they visited a mall in Sharjah at about 6pm on Monday.  They returned about an hour later to where they thought they had parked, to find neither the car nor their son. Fearing the car had been stolen and the child kidnapped, they alerted police.

“We deployed about 50 police patrols and used social media as well as traditional media in both English and Arabic to help find the boy and the car,” Col Sultan Abdullah Khayal of Sharjah Police said yesterday.

“With all our combined efforts the car was found in about an hour parked in a sandy area in Al Qassimia with the child inside,” said Col Al Khayal.

Col Al Khayal said the parents were in a “state of nervous breakdown” while police searched for their son. When officers found their car the couple confirmed it was where they had left it, and they had simply forgotten where it was.

He said the case has been referred to prosecutors and both parents may be charged with child neglect.

The boy was examined by police doctors and found to be in good health, said Col Al Khayal.

Earlier there was a huge social media campaign to find the missing boy. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, used his personal Twitter account to urge the public to help Sharjah Police in the search.

Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, also followed the case closely.

Doctors have issued frequent warnings of the danger of leaving children unattended in cars. “Leaving a child in a car is extremely dangerous,” Dr Taisser Atrak, head of paediatrics at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said yesterday.

“A child could die. It is that simple.

“The temperature inside a car on a hot day can rise quickly above the outside temperature. If the temperatures are about 40 degrees outside it can be up to 10 degrees hotter inside the car and the child is helpless.

“A child can not cope with dehydration very well and he can not open the window or do anything. It is very dangerous.”

Mr Atrak, who dedicates his spare time to campaigning for child safety, said leaving a child in a car was paramount to “child neglect”.

“I would say to parents, do not leave you child at all, for any time, for any reason,” he said. “You are endangering the life of your child.

Unfortunately, he said, cases like this are relatively common. “I see seven to eight cases like this a year,” he said.