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B.C. family relieved after missing autistic son found

After spending a long, cold night searching for their missing 13-year-old autistic son, Simon and Paulette Graham were on the street handing out posters and getting ready for a police press conference when they learned Nicholas had been found.

"Relief and hope," was how a weary Ms. Graham described her emotions on hearing from Vancouver police that the boy had been located and taken to hospital.

"I kissed everybody when I heard," said Mr. Graham, in an interview on the street outside the family home in Vancouver's West End.

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He said their son, who vanished Sunday afternoon, had been found at 9:30 Monday morning, wandering in the University Endowment Lands, a heavily wooded area laced with hiking trails near the University of British Columbia.

How the boy got there, which would have required a nine-kilometre hike, isn't clear, but Mr. Graham said he probably rode buses at least part way.

"He loves trains, and knows every SkyTrain station in the city, and he loves buses and draws them in great detail," said Mr. Graham, moments before he and his wife headed to BC Children's Hospital, to be reunited with their son in time for New Year's Eve.

"We have been told he is in good shape, but we are both registered nurses," he said of Ms. Graham, "and we know all about hypothermia, so we are worried about how he is doing."

The temperature fell to 0 C Sunday night and there was a light rain.

Mr. Graham said Nicholas simply ran out the front door of the family home Sunday at about 3:30 p.m. and disappeared.

"He usually has a very busy, structured day," said Mr. Graham. "But on the school break there is a lot more time to fill. We were just getting ready to go out for a walk. I went to get my shoes, and he was gone. He was very excited to be going out and I think he just headed off by himself . . . We just never caught up."

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He said Nicholas had been lost before.

"At eight [years] he went for a run, but that was the last time. I was just a bit behind yesterday and lost track of him for a moment," Mr. Graham said.

Ms. Graham said when the family realized Nicholas was missing they called police and began knocking on doors. Within a few hours the streets and alleyways were filled with volunteers helping with the search.

"I can't thank the neighbours enough," Ms. Graham said. "The community has been great."

She said volunteers were out looking with the family until 4 a.m. Then the search began again at daybreak Monday.

Ms. Graham and her husband were minutes away from holding a press conference to issue a city-wide plea for help when their son was found by a group.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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