More than 50 police officers, including a helicopter and a dog unit, scoured fields of rape next to Rope Walk in Littlehampton on Sunday afternoon to find Daniel Jr. Hannett, known as DJ, in a dramatic search operation. Click here for the original story.
The boy’s father and namesake Daniel wanted to say a ‘big thank you’ to police for their help.
His partner Lisa Smith said: “I never thought in a thousand years I would have to call the police to help find one of my children.
“If they hadn’t come and sent out so many people like the coastguard and helicopter, I don’t think we would have found him and to be honest I think something could have happened.”
The couple from Connaught Road, Littlehampton, had gone for a walk with DJ, their three-year-old daughter Amy, their two dogs Maggie and Milly and two friends when the disappearance happened.
Daniel said his son followed their dog into the rape field and he immediately ran after him – but the plants were so thick he could not see DJ.
After a few frantic minutes of searching and calling his son’s name, the 27-year-old said the realisation of what happened sank in and his ‘head and heart hit the top’.
The couple called the police at just after 4pm, as they feared DJ could have fallen and hit his head – or worse, as he suffers from convulsions and low blood pressure.
Lisa said officers arrived from every direction, and they were told to leave the field so the police could carry out the operation.
Worried family and friends flocked to the edge of the field to support Lisa and Daniel – and as the minutes passed, which the 24-year-old said felt like ‘a lifetime’, she began to ‘think the worst’.
But soon enough, the police helicopter picked up DJ’s heat signature using an infrared camera, which led officers to him.
When the couple were reunited with their son at around 5pm, Lisa said they were ‘over the moon’.
She said: “When I saw him, I felt the same way I did the day I gave birth to him. It was a sense of relief, and I was so glad to have him with me.
“The first thing he said to me was: ‘I want a cuddle with daddy’ – he is a daddy’s boy!”