THE dad of a schoolgirl who went missing for nearly three hours has thanked residents in a Chester community for their “overwhelming” support in their “hour of need”.
Father of eight Jon Saunders, 33, of Hillside Road, Blacon, said he was “grateful to the Blacon community” after about 200 people helped search for his 10-year-old daughter when she went missing at about 4pm on Tuesday.
The police helicopter based in Hawarden was scrambled and a specialist dog team and 20 police officers also moved into the area to join in the search.
Cheshire Police quickly posted about the missing girl with a short description on social media which led to hundreds of local residents joining with police to locate the missing girl who was found, safe and well, shortly before 7pm.
Mr Saunders contacted the Leader to tell of his family’s ordeal and to thank all those who took part in the search.
He said: “I am grateful to the Blacon community for the way they generously gave up their time to help myself and my wife in locating our daughter. She had gone missing for three hours and the way people came to help was unreal and so unexpected.
“Friends, family, Cheshire police, my work colleagues, her schoolteachers, headmaster and local businesses offered to help and put pictures up on social media. It was just overwhelming.
“King Kabs put a shout out to all their cars to keep an eye out and we had people from Ellesmere Port coming down to help as well.
“My best friend, and boss, Gary Stowell, was brilliant. He drove me round in his van and stayed strong for me and kept me together.
“Blacon gets slated in the press, or when you say you are from here, but the way people offered to help us, I can honestly say I am glad I grew up here and my children are as well.
“I couldn’t thank people enough for what they did for helping find my daughter and for supporting my family in our hour of need.
“Thanks again to everyone who gave up their time to help my family be reunited again. Thank you.”
Cheshire Police have also praised the reaction of the residents of Blacon who came out to help with the search.
Inspector Kevin Chambers of the Chester Outer Policing team said he was proud of the response of the Blacon community.
Insp Chambers said: “When we do get reports of missing children we treat it as a high priority. The strategy for the police is to reduce the risk to the missing person.
That includes using specialist teams such as dog patrols, air support and social media.
“The police can’t do these searches on their own, especially when people know the area and there are a lot of areas which need searching.
“The reaction of the Blacon community was really impressive but also one I would expect because of the community spirit here.
“It has been really heartening to see. This is a good example of a safe and positive outcome at the end of an incident.
“That is the reaction I have come to expect from Blacon because it is a tight knit community which will go out of its way in these situations to look after their own.”