Police failed to spot body of toddler

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The Independent Online
A POLICE force that twice failed to find the body of a missing toddler in a garden pond is to review its search procedures.

Officers, including divers, spent 11 hours looking for 18-month-old Ben Lanchbury after he disappeared from a house in North Pickenham, Norfolk, just after midday on Thursday. The boy's body was found at 11.20pm when officers made a third search of a pond in the garden next-door to the house Ben had been visiting.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said the "small" pond was six feet deep, murky and covered with water lilies that made it difficult to search.

Forty officers, with police dogs and a helicopter with heat-seeking equipment, took part in the search. They were helped by 40 RAF personnel from a nearby air force base and more than 50 volunteers. A police spokesman said the officers followed existing procedures and scoured fields in a 400-yard radius.

Ben was the only child of Mark Lanchbury, a postman, and his wife, Janice, a building society worker. Both are in their early 30s and live in Swaffham, Norfolk.

Ben was being cared for by his aunt, Rachel Wright, 30, Mrs Lanchbury's sister, when he went missing. Mrs Wright and her daughters Sadie, five, and Amy, three, were visiting Sonya Bradbury, Mrs Wright's sister-in-law. It is thought that Ben wandered out of the side door, down the front drive, and into the garden of the house next door.

Mrs Wright's father-in-law, Michael Wright, 57, said he was concerned that his daughter-in-law should not be overwhelmed with guilt. "Ben's mother, Rachel's sister Janice, rang her this morning and said more or less the same thing, `You must not blame yourself'."

Mr Wright said his daughter-in-law had immediately raised concern that Ben could have fallen into the pond. The pond had then been searched by a neighbour and by police - but with no result.

The police spokesman said officers were reviewing the search operation but pointed out that routine procedures had been followed.

Special prayers will be said for Ben and his family at St Andrew's Church in North Pickenham tomorrow.

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