A three-year-old boy has been found alive after three days missing in the NSW Hunter region.
Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak, who has autism and is non-verbal, was last seen playing with his brother on the family's Putty property in the Hunter Valley region of NSW about 11.45am on Friday.
Desperate search parties looked for the boy throughout the weekend with NSW police announcing on Monday morning the boy had now been located.
"Missing three-year-old boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak has been located a short time ago," NSW police said in a brief statement.
"He is yet to be assessed by NSW Ambulance paramedics."
The family had earlier feared the boy had been kidnapped.
The boy's father Anthony said AJ was doing okay and was now sleeping with his mum while being checked by paramedics.
"It's a miracle. He has some nappy rash, he has been bitten by ants and he has fallen over but he is alive. He is alive," he told reporters.
"It's amazing. My leg, my hips, my ankles, I can't walk. I have been in the bush for four days with no sleep. We didn't stop."
He said AJ was found near a creek, drinking water.
The family have understandably rejoiced at the news – a moment that was captured by TV cameras as word came through that AJ had been found.
Breaking down, a relative thanked the police, the small army of family members and the more than 130 people who helped in the search.
"Thank you for the Government. Thank you for the police. Thank you very much. Thank you to my friends, my cousin, my sisters, my family," she told an ABC reporter as she sank to her knees.
"Thank you everyone. The police told me that AJ was just found alive. The helicopter found AJ."
The boy will now be taken to Singleton hospital, his father said.
Parents Anthony and Kelly Elfalak and their four sons moved to the property just months ago as Mr Elfalak's work as a plumber had dried up amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
Family friend Alan Hashem was at the property when the boy went missing and says he saw an old white van driving away from the location.
He said the family believed the boy had been abducted.
"Without a doubt. Without a doubt," he told the Nine Network on Monday morning, before AJ was located.
"For the simple reason he is on the spectrum of autism but he is always quite afraid and attached to his mum hence why his mum couldn't have him by her side when she's cooking, he is with his brothers.
"He's never wandered," he said.