Mr. W., you volunteered to help search for the missing Arian, even though you weren’t actually on duty. Why? The decision came after I saw the cones of light in the sky. The following evening, our superior at the police station in Stade was looking for volunteers to work in Elm on the weekend.

That was on Thursday evening, when your colleagues had been searching for Arian for three nights without success. That evening I was on patrol in the Stade area because of a series of burglaries. That’s when we discovered the light cones in the sky. The lights radiated so much hope for me and therefore touched me very much. That was incredibly emotional, a real goosebumps moment. When they asked for volunteers the following evening, I said yes. At that moment it didn’t matter to me that I actually had something planned that day.

How did the search continue on Saturday? We were divided into different teams. I searched the properties in Elm with the permission of the residents. In total we rang about 40 to 50 doorbells. But the hope that we would find Arian in a shed or garden remained.

What was the mood there? Surprisingly positive! This motivated everyone on site, even if there was a fear of a negative outcome. This optimism was also present in the morning at the large operational briefing, where volunteers from the Bundeswehr, the Technical Relief Agency, the German Red Cross, the volunteer fire brigade and the youth fire brigade were also there. They aren’t all directly involved in the search, but they organize, plan, provide bread and butter and keep the search going. Sometimes children from the village also help out. Overall, there are a lot of volunteers on site.

No stress, no excitement because a little boy has already spent freezing nights outside and you might be running out of time? Of course we’ll explore all the possibilities. But we were also told that, as an autistic person, Arian has a different mindset than other children his age. And our evolution didn’t start next to a supermarket, but in nature. These instincts become active in such moments. And he doesn’t have to be out and about, but could also be hiding in a cellar or shed. As a volunteer, you cling to this hope – at least when you search properties. Other colleagues searched the forest and the banks of the Oste. Of course, the chances of survival there are different.

Have you experienced similar cases? There are always cases of missing persons, but many of them can be solved within a few hours. I’ve never experienced anything comparable before. This creativity in searching with lights, the sound recordings of the mother and the sweets, toys and balloons on the fences fascinated me.

How did the villagers react when you rang their doorbell? Some people were very emotional. Many people thanked us and expressed hope that we would find Arian. I had the impression that the villagers were more afraid than we emergency services. Everyone there knows about it, maybe even knows the family. This brings with it a completely different connection. And when it comes to a child, such cases are always emotional. Occasionally we were asked bluntly how long we wanted to search. And whether we will still find the boy.

How do you react to that? You would probably never stop looking for your own child. We certainly have in mind that the story can also end negatively. But as a police officer you just wonder where the child could be. And yes, of course I believe that Arian will still be found – and would help with the search again at any time.