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Missing autistic schoolboy Bradley Cole sparks frantic search

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: December 10, 2010

HORRIFIED: 11-year-old Bradley Cole with his mum Sarah Dalby.

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SEVERELY autistic schoolboy Bradley Cole sparked a frantic search when he disappeared on a shopping trip with carers.

Education bosses have apologised to Bradley's family after the 11-year-old walked through a busy car park and crossed a main road before ending up near an icy lake on his own.

Bradley, from Witcombe near Gloucester, vanished from Tesco in Stroud. Luckily he was found safe and well in nearby Stratford Park a short time afterwards.

But his deeply worried mum and dad have highlighted the incident to warn other parents.

Bradley was being looked after by the Hartwood centre in Stroud at the time.

His mum Sarah Dalby said: "He won't go back there again. They've done good things with him, like with his health and hygiene. But it was a mistake that shouldn't have happened.

"There are other children there. I want to raise the alarm to their parents that something went wrong."

The 34-year-old added: "Bradley is severely autistic. He doesn't speak. He gets very anxious. He has no fear of anything."

Ms Dalby said she was horrified when she learned that Bradley must have walked alone through Tesco's car park, crossed a main road and ended up in the park near an icy lake.

Hartwood had been providing respite care one weekend a month for Bradley's parents, who are his full-time carers, to take a break. The home is owned and run by Gloucestershire County Council's Children's and Young People's Directorate, whose director of operational services Moira Swann said Bradley's absence was an isolated incident.

She said: "We have apologised to the family for any distress this incident caused. It was upsetting for everyone involved but thankfully was resolved quickly and without any harm to the child."

Ms Swann said risk assessments were carried out and all procedures were followed when Bradley vanished on Saturday.

She said: "The police were alerted immediately and efforts were made to get in touch with the boy's parents.

"We would like to reassure all parents that this was an isolated incident and Hartwood House continues to provide high quality respite care for children."

A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Police said they were alerted of Bradley's disappearance at 1.02pm. "He was found by 1.07pm and had probably been missing for perhaps 10 minutes," she said. Bradley, a pupil at Milestone Special School in Gloucester, lives at home with his mum, dad Duncan Cole, 33, and two brothers.

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    brian harmon, worcestershire  |  December 10 2010, 5:02PM

    it is beyond belief that these morons can brush this aside,what price a childs safety and well being,this case should be investagated fully and loudly,i think even one such incident is more than we should have to suffer with fingers crossed

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    brian harmon, worcester  |  December 10 2010, 4:55PM

    i agree entirely that cost should not be an issue,what price on your own child,a rare occurence or not it simply should not happen.its not a matter of alls well that ends well,its a miracle nothing far more serious happened.this case and any like it should be brought to the publics attention and with as much noise as possable

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    brenda phelps, westbury on severn  |  December 10 2010, 3:53PM

    Its ok for people to say lets not be to judgmental but it was not there autistic child, i would not care how much it cost to keep any child safe. And you hear of something happening with children all the time on the news in the papers its got to STOP NOW before its to late poor parents and poor little boy

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    Adam King, Gloucester Docks  |  December 10 2010, 1:07PM

    Sadly incidents like this are quite common. People with disabilities are sometimes treated as second or even third class citizens and labelled 'stupid' because they cannot do things most normal people can. There was a shocking story from West Wales recently about a teacher who bullied and abused disabled children in her care. They think that because they're disabled they can be treated like they don't matter. See the Hollie Greig story too. I agree with Rachel that it needs looking at, but knowing Social Services they'll do nothing. My Father had severe mental health problems and Social Services did nothing for him - well they did help exacerbate his problems, but that's about it.

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    geraint, gloucester  |  December 10 2010, 12:10PM

    Let's not be too judgmental - no harm was done and instances like this are thankfully extremely rare. No doubt lessons will be learned but, let's be realistic, to ensure no similar instances ever reoccurred would probably demand prohibitively expensive one-to-one supervision or the children being kept under permanent lock and key.

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    Rachel Soutter-Davies, Forest of Dean  |  December 10 2010, 10:10AM

    I was appauled to read this article and it seems to have been brushed off by the home. This child was known to the home and should have been in strict care. I cannot believe this was dealt with in 5 minutes, it would have taken longer for the police to reach tesco than 5 minutes. Children who have no disabilities drown in back yard ponds but to be near a frozen lake is unbelievable. This may be an isolated case but it should never have happened. I think this should be investigated further! My heart goes out to the family.