FOUR-year-old Connor Graham had been sound asleep at his aunt and uncle's house on Chatsworth Island when his parents checked on him at 4am yesterday.
A few hours later he was gone, a pushed-out flyscreen on the window of his room suggesting Connor, who had autism, had left the house.
Fearing the worst, Connor's parents and aunt and uncle ran out searching for him. All they found was his toy elephant, lying on the bank of the Clarence River.
The family searched the front and back yards of neighbours' homes for the little Queensland boy, calling out for help. The help came - lots of it - but it wasn't enough.
Police were called about 7am and a huge search launched with hundreds of people - police officers, SES volunteers and local residents, backed by the police and Westpac helicopters and the police dog squad - joining the effort.
The searchers combed canefields, the river and the roads. Connor's photo was released to the media and published widely on the internet.
About 4.15pm - a little more than 12 hours after he was seen sleeping in his bed - the worst fears of Connor's parents and all those searching were realised, when the boy's body was found in the water near his aunt and uncle's home, where he had been holidaying with his parents and siblings for the past fortnight.
"There are a lot of risks around here - the canefields, the river, the main roads," Inspector Brendan Gorman of the Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command said.
Reverend Des Scotcher of the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Australia encouraged the community to keep Connor in their prayers.
"It's a pity these things happen around Christmas," Rev Scotcher said.
"We just ask everyone to keep Connor and his mother and father and close family in their prayers."
A report is being prepared for the Coroner.
Anyone with information is urged to phone police on 6642 0222.
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