Some 1,000 police officers, firefighters and volunteers searched on Saturday for an eight-
year-old boy whose disappearance four days previously in Almeria has gripped the country.
Gabriel Cruz was at his grandmother's home in the small village of Las Hortichuelas when he
left to go play at a friend's house nearby last Tuesday afternoon. He has not been seen
since.
His relatives alerted police who published a missing person's alert with a photo of the
smiling boy, which went viral in Spain via mobile messaging services and social media.
Since then, police and volunteers have been combing the countryside in the area on foot
and on horseback, using helicopters and drones to try and locate him. Interior Minister Juan
Ignacio Zoido said police were also searching waters off the coast nearby.
Cruz's parents have given several tearful interviews to Spanish media, saying he knew the
area well and could not have got lost.
“We hope we will get Gabriel back soon and that he will return home with his family, which
is where a boy who is only eight should be," his father Angel Cruz told reporters at a press
conference, before breaking down in tears.
In a twist on Friday, it emerged that a man had been detained this week for stalking
Gabriel's mother Patricia Ramirez, though authorities stressed he was not held in
connection with the disappearance of her son.
The man, named as Diego Miguel, had become "obsessed" with Ramirez and in 2016 was
ordered by a judge to stay away from her and given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
However, he broke this order several times, including in the hours when Gabriel
disappeared, and was detained for this reason authorities said. Police said they are
investigating the circumstances, but Angel Cruz stressed Saturday he believed the man had
nothing to do with his son's disappearance.
Latest development
A child’s vest was found in the rural area near Níjar where Gabriel disappeared. His father
identified the item of clothing as being his son's, and on Monday the Guardia Civil carried
out DNA tests which confirmed that the garment was indeed Gabriel’s.
They say the report of the clothing Gabriel was wearing when he vanished – a red jacket
and black Adidas tracksuit bottoms – did not mention a vest, although as it is an
undergarment, it may have been forgotten.
The search has now become more 'selective', say inspectors, who have cordoned off the
area around the reservoir pools and water treatment plant in the Las Negras sewage
works close to the footpath which leads to the San Pedro bay.
This time, the search continued in the dark, and detectives were out all night trying to find
the little boy.
They are accompanied by the now-famous 12-year- old Belgian Shepherd Elton, one of the
Guardia Civil's 550 sniffer dogs, who was key in helping to find the body of Madrid sixth-
former Diana Quer on New Year's Eve in a disused warehouse in Galicia, where she had
been dumped after being raped and murdered 16 months earlier.