Body found in hunt for missing toddler

Police in New Zealand today found a body in a drain near where a toddler went missing a week earlier.

Two-year-old Aisling Symes, whose father Allan is originally from County Waterford in Ireland, disappeared from a suburb of Auckland on the evening of October 5.

Her parents received the news they had been dreading when police announced today that they had discovered the body of a young child.

New Zealand Police stressed that it had not been confirmed that it was Aisling but said officers were with her family.

The grim discovery was made in a drain in the suburb of Henderson just after 8pm New Zealand time (8am UK time) following several hours of intense searching.

The area has been cordoned off and is being treated as a crime scene.

New Zealand Police said in a statement: "Clearly the team investigating the disappearance of Aisling Symes is heavily involved in tonight's events and staff from the investigation are with the Symes family tonight.

"It's too early to know how long the child has been in the drain or how it got there.

"The child has not been identified nor can we confirm what gender it is at this stage."

Aisling went missing from her late grandparents' house in Henderson at about 5.30pm last Monday while her parents were clearing the property.

Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine has been missing since May 2007, sent a message of support to the little girl's parents last week.