By Jackson Russell
Search teams are playing music and nearby residents are encouraged to leave food outside of their homes as the search for missing teenager William Callaghan continues.
Three speakers are playing the theme from Thomas the Tank Engine in an effort to draw William out of thick bushland where he has been missing from since Monday.
William was walking with family at Mt Disappointment on Monday when he walked ahead. He has now been missing for nearly 48 hours.
William has autism and is non-verbal. He does not have food or water with him, and was not dressed for the elements of an evening – he was wearing navy blue tracksuit pants and a blue windcheater.
Acting Inspector Christine Lalor asked nearby residents to leave food, water and blankets out in case William was nearby.
“Anyone in the area with a house nearby, if they could put some water… or any food similar to Vegemite or feta cheese out on their verandah or porch as William will seek that out,” she said.
“Also, if they’re able to play Thomas the Tank Engine. The other thing is he loves the smell off and will be attracted to is barbecue with onion or bacon.
“At this stage, obviously, we’re using everything we can to try to draw William out and to find him as soon as possible.”
Insp Lalor said anyone who saw William should gesture towards him then back away.
“Make a gesture to him to come towards the food, put the food down and then move back and away and William will come to that,” she said.
Insp Lalor said police were searching a very large area and doorknocking outside the search radius.
“We’re very optimistic at this stage that he will be safe and we’ll find him safe and well today,” she said.
“He could double back, we don’t know where he is so we’ll continue searching the whole area.”
About 450 people at searching for William, with volunteers still arriving at the site to assist the search, but Insp Lalor said there was a sufficient amount of volunteers at the moment.
“I know people want to help but we would ask for only those that have got experience in searching and know this area well.”
William’s mother Penny Callaghan, of Drysdale, said the family was desperately hoping he would be found today.
“Sometimes being a mum of an autistic child is really tough,” she said.
“I have two boys with autism, Will is my eldest son and he would be considered very low functioning.
“He’s very smart in his own way, you know. I’m feeling positive because he is quite resilient.
“He is very skinny… But he eats all the time, he’s always be on the move, he’s very active. He’s quite fit, he’s not a great sleeper so that may be good for him in this instance.”
Fighting back tears, Ms Callaghan said William was a beautiful person who wouldn’t harm a fly and if he had reached an urban environment, he would look out of place.
William could be covering his ears and barefoot as he fears loud noises and does not like to wear shoes, but will be scared and hungry.
“Food is going to be his main driver at this point and he will be seeking food,” Ms Callaghan said.
“He will not shy away from approaching someone for their food.
“He won’t ask them because he’s non-verbal, he might just try and grab it or lead them by the hand to take him somewhere but he won’t be able to say that.”
Ms Callaghan said to be gentle and avoid direct eye contact when approaching William if he was found.
“Keep it simple and be gentle, he doesn’t like really loud noises so that includes people yelling and slow movement too,” she said.
Ms Callaghan thanked everyone involved in the operation.
“So many volunteers… the Salvation Army catering the SES, everyone is just amazing and I’ve met so many people who have just inspired me in so many ways,” she said.
Ms Callaghan said any parent would be thinking worst case scenario right now but she would not allow herself to do that and was looking forward to seeing her son.
“He loves tic tacs, so I want to give him a million tic tacs,” she said.
“I often use it to reinforce his behaviour and now I just want to give him all the things that he loves.
“He will want me there. Whether or not he’d actually want to hug me, he doesn’t typically like people touching him but having me there beside him comforting him.”