After day of tears, vigil of hope for missing Montreal boy's family
Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou, 10, disappeared Monday after he left his Ahuntsic-Cartierville home
An outpouring of support reached the doorstep of Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou's family home in the form of a vigil Friday night, following a harrowing week full of unanswered questions.
It was the fifth nightfall since the 10-year-old boy went missing from his Montreal neighbourhood.
About a hundred people walked from the park, where he was last seen Monday after leaving his home in Ahuntsic-Cartierville to walk to a friend's house.
The vigil reached the family's door, holding candles and signs, and watched as people filed down the stairs. Among them was the boy's father, Kouadio Frédéric Kouakou.
"We're here for you," members of the crowd said as he approached the sidewalk.
"This is the Quebec I dream about. Thank you very much," he answered, choking back tears.
He told the crowd their positivity was helping bring his son home.
"Jeff will come back to us!" he called out.
He asked the crowd to reconvene there at 11 a.m. Saturday so they could retrace Ariel's footsteps together.
'Help me find my son,' mother pleads
Ariel's mother, Akouena Noëlla Bibie, spoke Friday afternoon, saying she hasn't slept since her son went missing.
Through tears, she begged anyone with information about her son's whereabouts to come forward.
She spoke alongside her husband who helped her to stand during the brief interview.
The boy's father said that he still has hope his son will be found alive and believes he was kidnapped.
Kouakou said the family harbours no ill will toward anyone involved — they simply want their son back.
The family also thanked police officers and volunteers who are participating in the search effort.
Last seen on Monday
A surveillance video taken on Monday from a home on Gouin Boulevard shows Ariel walking, turning as if his name had been called, walking again and then turning again before walking swiftly away.
"We want to speak to the public. We want to speak to people who live close to here," said Mireille N'Zi, the boy's aunt.
Montreal police say they are considering all possible scenarios and haven't ruled out kidnapping.
Here are details about Ariel, who speaks French:
- About four-foot-seven and 88 pounds.
- Dark hair and dark eyes.
- Was last seen wearing a black coat with a hood, grey pants and yellow shoes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact 911 or visit the police command post set up on Gouin Boulevard.
Colleagues of the boy's father have set up a crowdfunding effort in order to help the family.
On Friday, the campaign had already more than doubled its original goal, raising almost $3,000.
Residents asked to check backyards, sheds
Police say they don't need more volunteers for now, but are asking the public to keep an eye out for Ariel.
"Instead of coming here as volunteers to help with the searches, if you want to help us, the best way is to check around your home, speak to your neighbours and share information so that we can find Ariel as quickly as possible," said Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant.
Quebec provincial police, Montreal police, firefighters, volunteers and Ariel's family have canvassed the riverbank and wooded area of Parc des Bateliers by foot, horseback, boat and helicopter.
The park, which borders on the Rivière des Prairies, is where Ariel was last seen by a witness on Monday at 2 p.m.
Volunteer Lina Napolitano travelled from Laval to join the search Friday. As a mother, she said she felt compelled to help Ariel's family.
"It's impossible that he's nowhere to be found," she said. "And I'm not going to stop until we find him."
Residents have plastered photos of Ariel all over the neighbourhood — on lampposts, telephone poles and in local businesses.
Police are asking residents of Cartierville to check their backyards, garages and sheds, or anywhere a child could be hiding.
Father calls for new Amber Alert
The family is asking for police to launch a new Amber Alert for his son after it was withdrawn earlier this week.
An Amber Alert was issued Tuesday afternoon, but was later lifted when police determined his case didn't meet the criteria to keep the emergency measure in place.
This was the first time Montreal police had issued an alert without meeting those conditions, saying it was an "exceptional measure" given that Ariel had been missing for more than 24 hours.
After the Amber Alert was issued, a woman who spoke to Ariel in Parc des Bateliers contacted police.
With files from Radio-Canada and Navneet Pall