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Leicester river - latest: Nicola Bulley diving expert Peter Faulding joins search for missing two-year old boy

The diving expert who joined the hunt for missing mother Nicola Bulley last year has been called in to help find a missing toddler in Leicestershire.

Peter Faulding, 61, who claimed to have found Ms Bulley’s body within six minutes in the River Wyre, Lancashire, has been recruited to find missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva.

The “creative little boy” has been been missing since 18 February after he fell into the River Soar, Leicester, while out with his family in Aylestone Meadows.

Mr Faulding claimed Xielo’s family had contacted him to request his help, but that his offer of support was ignored by police.

Now, Mr Faulding and experts from private company Specialist Group International (SGI) will join the operation after “further conversations with search specialists and Xielo’s family”.

The search for the boy is in its second week, with the focus on the stretch of river around Watermead Park and Birstall over the weekend, police said.

Key Points

  • Nicola Bulley diving expert to join search of River Soar

  • Xielo’s father who was hospitalised trying to save son calls him ‘bundle of joy'

  • Police obtain CCTV of ‘boy falling into water'

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley and missing toddler cases

Tuesday 27 February 2024 20:15 , Alexander Butler

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley

Where is the River Soar?

Tuesday 27 February 2024 18:15 , Alexander Butler

Pictured: Peter Faulding joins search

Tuesday 27 February 2024 17:10 , Alexander Butler

Peter Faulding (right), CEO of private underwater search and recovery company Specialist Group International (SGI), joins the search operation for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva at the river Soar (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Peter Faulding (right), CEO of private underwater search and recovery company Specialist Group International (SGI), joins the search operation for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva at the river Soar (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley and missing toddler cases

Tuesday 27 February 2024 16:06 , Alexander Butler

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley

Missing toddler was ‘cheeky, funny and friendly’, mother says

Tuesday 27 February 2024 15:11 , Alexander Butler

The missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva was a “cheeky, funny and friendly” toddler who loved playing with his toys and watching cartoons, his mother said.

Xielo’s mother said: “Xielo is a cheeky, funny, friendly, smart, caring and independent little boy. He never fails to make me laugh or smile and always loves a cuddle and some kisses.

“Xielo loves playing with his toys and watching cartoons including Bino and Fino. Me, his dad and the whole family are so heartbroken at what has happened.

We thank everyone who has supported us and helped us during this time. We are extremely grateful for this.” All we want is for Xielo to be found as soon as possible. Thank you.”

Xielo was a ‘cheeky, funny and friendly’ toddler who loved playing with his toys and watching cartoons (PA Media)
Xielo was a ‘cheeky, funny and friendly’ toddler who loved playing with his toys and watching cartoons (PA Media)

Where is the River Soar?

Tuesday 27 February 2024 14:00 , Alexander Butler

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley and missing toddler cases

Tuesday 27 February 2024 13:30 , Alexander Butler

Who is Peter Faulding? Diving expert called in to help with Nicola Bulley

Pictured: Specialist Group International search river

Tuesday 27 February 2024 13:00 , Alexander Butler

A team from the Specialist Group International search the River Soar on Tuesday (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
A team from the Specialist Group International search the River Soar on Tuesday (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Pictured: Specialist Group International search river

Tuesday 27 February 2024 12:39 , Alexander Butler

Police search teams (right) and Specialist Group International (left) have joined the search operation for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Police search teams (right) and Specialist Group International (left) have joined the search operation for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Specialist Group International stop underneath a bridge on the River Soar as they search for missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Specialist Group International stop underneath a bridge on the River Soar as they search for missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Where is the River Soar?

Tuesday 27 February 2024 11:30 , Alexander Butler

Search area widened, police say

Tuesday 27 February 2024 11:16 , Alexander Butler

The search area for missing toddler Xielo Maruziva has been widened as specialist experts have been called in to help with the hunt.

A Leicesterishire Police spokesperson said: “The search parameter has since been widened, with the operation focusing on the stretch of river around Watermead Park and Birstall over the weekend.

“We continue to be grateful to the support we’ve been shown by the public and colleagues from other forces and agencies.

“We’re in regular contact with Xielo’s family and are continuing to support them in what remains a very upsetting time. Our search operation to locate Xielo continues to widen as we know he may have travelled further from where he went into the water – and potentially outside our force area.”

The search area along the River Soar has been widened, police said (Jacob King/PA Wire)
The search area along the River Soar has been widened, police said (Jacob King/PA Wire)

People warned to avoid water where boy, 2, vanished more than a week ago

Tuesday 27 February 2024 10:29 , Alexander Butler

People warned to avoid water where boy, 2, vanished more than a week ago

Nicola Bulley diving expert to join search of River Soar

Tuesday 27 February 2024 10:13 , Alexander Butler

The diving expert who joined the hunt for missing mother Nicola Bulley last year has been called in to help find a missingtoddler in Leicestershire.

Peter Faulding, 61, who claimed to have found Ms Bulley’s body within six minutes in the River Wyre, Lancashire, has been recruited to find missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva.

The “creative little boy” has been been missing since 18 February after he fell into the River Soar, Leicester, while out with his family in Aylestone Meadows.

Peter Faulding has joined the hunt for missing toddler Xielo Maruziva who has been missing since 18 February (PA Archive)
Peter Faulding has joined the hunt for missing toddler Xielo Maruziva who has been missing since 18 February (PA Archive)

‘It’s becoming a swamp in the middle of Leicester'

Friday 23 February 2024 19:00 , Lydia Patrick

Brett Wells, Chairman of St Andrews Football Club based in the meadows told The Independent: “It seems to be getting worse. Leicestershire as a whole is getting worse for flooding.

“We’ve had a few games called off already, more than any other recent year I can remember.

“Morale is so low because of this awful tragedy and the weather is so bad too.

“We don’t know why flooding is getting worse. It may not just be the climate - it could be the council maintenance of the drainage.

“It’s becoming a swamp in the middle of Leicester. I took the drone out the other day and you can see the state of it.

“It’s massively important for families to have a safe green space to visit. It’s invaluable and so rare these days.”

‘It was absolutely torrent'

Friday 23 February 2024 18:00 , Lydia Patrick

A 65-year-old nurse said she was standing on a bridge when she saw Xielo’s father jump in to save his son on Sunday.

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, told the BBC: “I didn’t see the child fall in, but I heard shouting and at that point I didn’t know what was going on.

“I was running to tell the man to get out the water because it was absolutely torrent. I saw the man disappear under the arch. Then I knew there was a child in the water and I tried to look myself.”

‘No one is this country has known rain like it'

Friday 23 February 2024 17:00 , Lydia Patrick

One farmer, who runs a shop next to the scene where Xielo vanished told The Independent: “I’m a farmer we know how bad it is. It’s been really wet the past few days. The whole of the UK is really struggling as well.

“It started in October last year and continued. No one in this country has known rain like it.

“It is damaging. People want to get out more since Covid and they can’t. You should be able to take the kids out for half term and walk the dogs safely but you can’t get across this bridge anymore.

“We put warning signs up with the police, the fire brigade who do a sterling job but this tragedy can still happen.

“All I’m thinking about is that poor family.”

Watch - Leicestershire police give update on search for missing two-year-old boy

Friday 23 February 2024 15:59 , Lydia Patrick

The swampy nature reserve where Xielo Maruziva, 2, vanished without a trace

Friday 23 February 2024 14:38 , Lydia Patrick

Heavy rains across a popular nature reserve are thought to have created dangerous conditions which saw a toddler completely disappear beneath its brown, murky floodwaters.

The frantic search for Xielo Maruziva, 2, ongoing since Sunday evening, has been hampered by “hammering rain” after he fell into the swollen River Soar.

His father, who was rushed to hospital having tried to save him, revealed his complete devastation at losing his “charming and creative little boy” who had just started nursery in the overflowing water.

Thermal drones, sniffer dogs and rescuers in kayaks or on their hands and knees are prodding poles along the 8.8-hectare Aylestone Meadows - the closest green space for Leicester’s 360,000 people - for any sign of the missing toddler as locals pray for his safe return.

Before his disappearance, families would march their children to Leicester’s largest nature reserve where they could investigate nearly 1,000 different species of damsel and dragonflies, frogs, badgers, otters, herds of grazing Longhorn cows and even a species of willow tree never seen before.

Read the full story here...

The swampy nature reserve where Xielo Maruziva, 2, vanished without a trace

Leicestershire police give update

Friday 23 February 2024 14:06 , Lydia Patrick

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr has delivered an update on the search for missing two-year-old Xielo Maruziva as the search enters its sixth day.

She said: “I’d like to begin by thanking everybody that’s been involved in the search this week

“The circumstances have been incredibly difficult, as have the weather conditions and we really appreciate both the support of the public and also the professionalism and absolute determination of colleagues from within Leicestershire police, from partner agencies and other forces as we all continue to put every effort we can into finding Xielo.

“I want to continue to extend my absolute thoughts to Xielo’s loving family.”

She explained the force will continue to use specialist resources such as divers and boats to try and locate the missing boy over the weekend.

Officers are also using drones and the National Police Air Service, alongside advanced technology within the water and specialist marine dogs.

‘Beautiful little boy’

Friday 23 February 2024 13:00 , Lydia Patrick

People have left messages on social media in support of the rescue effort after the missing toddler was named by police.

One person said: “So heartbreaking. Beautiful little boy. Thinking of the family and all emergency services and volunteers undertaking the search.”

Another said: “Beautiful child. Thoughts with his family and all those working with them as well as on the meadows search x”

And another wrote: “Heartbreaking so sad thoughts and prayers with his poor family.

Witness describes frantic search for Xielo

Friday 23 February 2024 12:02 , Lydia Patrick

An eyewitness has described the moment Xielo’s father jumped into the River Soar to try and rescue his son, before he disappeared in the water on Sunday.

A 65-year-old woman, who is a nurse, said she was standing on a bridge when she saw a man enter the water on Sunday.

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, told the BBC: “I didn’t see the child fall in, but I heard shouting and at that point I didn’t know what was going on.

“I was running to tell the man to get out the water because it was absolutely torrent. I saw the man disappear under the arch. Then I knew there was a child in the water and I tried to look myself.”

The search operation continues on the River Soar in Leicester after a two-year-old boy fell into the River Soar near the Aylestone Meadows area on Sunday afternoon (Jacob King/PA Wire)
The search operation continues on the River Soar in Leicester after a two-year-old boy fell into the River Soar near the Aylestone Meadows area on Sunday afternoon (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Watch - Leicester police dogs continue search for missing toddler in River Soar yesterday

Friday 23 February 2024 10:29 , Lydia Patrick

Leicester City Council comment on missing two-year-old

Friday 23 February 2024 09:27 , Lydia Patrick

A spokesman for Leicester City Council said: “Aylestone Meadows is a vast expanse of public open space that stretches for around two miles from the south of Leicester to central Leicester, and has dozens of points of unrestricted entry.

“It operates as a natural flood plain for the River Soar, and is critical to managing flood risk for the city.“The city council has worked closely with the Environment Agency over many decades, investing hundreds of millions of pounds in flood relief across Leicester, but of course the frequency of flooding is increasing here, as it is elsewhere in the country.

“Our thoughts are with Xielo’s family.”

Boy named and pictured by police as bad weather ‘hampers’ police hunt (Family handout)
Boy named and pictured by police as bad weather ‘hampers’ police hunt (Family handout)

Search continues into sixth day for missing boy

Friday 23 February 2024 08:34 , Lydia Patrick

The search for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva continues into its sixth day, Leicestershire Police have confirmed.

It comes as the force had difficulties yesterday due to substantial rainfall.

A Leicestershire Police spokesman told The Independent yesterday: “Rain is having an impact on the level of search and it is currently hammering down over Leicestershire.”

Search for two-year-old boy in Leicester river continues

Friday 23 February 2024 07:00 , Holly Evans

'Beautiful little boy’

Friday 23 February 2024 04:00 , Holly Evans

People have left messages on social media in support of the rescue effort after the missing toddler was named by police.

One person said: “So heartbreaking. Beautiful little boy. Thinking of the family and all emergency services and volunteers undertaking the search.”

Another said: “Beautiful child. Thoughts with his family and all those working with them as well as on the meadows search x”

And another wrote: “Heartbreaking so sad thoughts and prayers with his poor family.

Witness describes frantic search for Xielo

Friday 23 February 2024 01:00 , Holly Evans

An eyewitness has described the moment Xielo’s father jumped into the River Soar to try and rescue his son, before he disappeared in the water.

A 65-year-old woman, who is a nurse, said she was standing on a bridge when she saw a man enter the water on Sunday.

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, told the BBC: “I didn’t see the child fall in, but I heard shouting and at that point I didn’t know what was going on.

“I was running to tell the man to get out the water because it was absolutely torrent. I saw the man disappear under the arch. Then I knew there was a child in the water and I tried to look myself.”

The boy was with family members when he fell into the fast-flowing River Soar in Leicester on Sunday (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
The boy was with family members when he fell into the fast-flowing River Soar in Leicester on Sunday (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

Bad weather has posed difficulties for search efforts

Thursday 22 February 2024 20:21 , Holly Evans

Leicestershire locals have said the initial search for Xielo would have been hindered by the muddy water rising out of the River Soar, after weeks of bad weather.

One local to the nature reserve, said: “I live not too far away from there and go past the River Soar & Grand Union Canal every day. In good weather the river is shallow and clear, but it’s been high for ages and looks like mud.

“The whole area is a floodplain and has been bad on and off for months.”

Pictured: ‘Cheeky’ toddler missing in the River Soar

Thursday 22 February 2024 18:53 , Holly Evans

The search continues for Xielo Maruziva (Leicestershire Police/PA Wire)
The search continues for Xielo Maruziva (Leicestershire Police/PA Wire)

Forces using, dogs, drones and kayaks to search for Xielo

Thursday 22 February 2024 17:19 , Holly Evans

Leicestershire Police said officers had received a “large number of responses” from an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

However the force has urged members of the public not to attempt their own searches.

It comes after the Metropolitan Police’s marine recovery dogs and rescue teams from Kent and West Mercia forces joined the operation on Tuesday.

The National Police Air Service and a drone unit have been supporting officers on the ground, while teams have also used night-vision goggles to search the water at night.

Environment Agency officers have also supported the operation with specialist mapping equipment, which has assisted police in identifying key search areas.

Recap: Watch as specialist divers search River Soar for missing two-year-old Leicester boy

Thursday 22 February 2024 15:39 , Tara Cobham

Specialist search teams continue search today, say police

Thursday 22 February 2024 14:31 , Tara Cobham

Specialist teams are continuing the search for two-year-old Xielo Maruziva today, Leicestershire Police has said.

The search operation at the River Soar has remained ongoing since Sunday afternoon.

Parents desperate for return of ‘cheeky’ toddler who is their ‘bundle of joy’

Thursday 22 February 2024 13:30 , Tara Cobham

The parents of two-year-old Xielo Maruziva are desperate for the return of their “cheeky” toddler as the search for him has entered its fifth day.

Xielo’s mother described her son as “cheeky, funny, friendly, smart, caring and independent”.

She said: “Xielo is a cheeky, funny, friendly, smart, caring and independent little boy. He never fails to make me laugh or smile and always loves a cuddle and some kisses.

“Xielo loves playing with his toys and watching cartoons including Bino and Fino.

“Me, his dad and the whole family are so heartbroken at what has happened. We thank everyone who has supported us and helped us during this time. We are extremely grateful for this.

“All we want is for Xielo to be found as soon as possible. Thank you.”

Yellow weather warning in place today as rain hampers search efforts

Thursday 22 February 2024 12:27 , Tara Cobham

A yellow warning for rain is in place in Leicester today, as the weather hampers the search effort for missing Xielo Maruziva.

The Met Office issued the warning for between 5am and 6pm in southern England, saying “heavy rain may lead to flooding and disruption in some places”.

It comes as a Leicestershire Police spokesman told The Independent: “Rain is having an impact on the level of search and it is currently hammering down over Leicestershire.”

A yellow warning for rain is in place in Leicester today, as the weather hampers the search effort for missing Xielo Maruziva (Met Office)
A yellow warning for rain is in place in Leicester today, as the weather hampers the search effort for missing Xielo Maruziva (Met Office)

Recap: Watch as Leicester police dogs search for missing toddler in River Soar

Thursday 22 February 2024 10:52 , Tara Cobham

Xielo described as ‘caring and independent’ little boy

Thursday 22 February 2024 21:41 , Holly Evans

Xielo’s mother described her son as “cheeky, funny, friendly, smart, caring and independent”.

She said: “Xielo is a cheeky, funny, friendly, smart, caring and independent little boy. He never fails to make me laugh or smile and always loves a cuddle and some kisses.

“Xielo loves playing with his toys and watching cartoons including Bino and Fino.

“Me, his dad and the whole family are so heartbroken at what has happened. We thank everyone who has supported us and helped us during this time. We are extremely grateful for this.

“All we want is for Xielo to be found as soon as possible. Thank you.”

Witness describes frantic search for Xielo

Thursday 22 February 2024 09:25 , Barney Davis

An eyewitness described the moment Xielo’s father tried to reach his son before he vanished in the water.

A 65-year-old woman, who is a nurse, said she was standing on a bridge when she saw a man enter the water on Sunday.

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, told the BBC: “I didn’t see the child fall in, but I heard shouting and at that point I didn’t know what was going on.

“I was running to tell the man to get out the water because it was absolutely torrent. I saw the man disappear under the arch. Then I knew there was a child in the water and I tried to look myself.”

Forces using, dogs, drones and kayaks to search for Xielo as public warned of starting own probes

Thursday 22 February 2024 08:30 , Barney Davis

The Metropolitan Police’s marine recovery dogs and rescue teams from Kent and West Mercia forces joined the operation on Tuesday.

The National Police Air Service and a drone unit have been supporting officers on the ground, while teams have also used night-vision goggles to search the water at night.

Environment Agency officers have also supported the operation with specialist mapping equipment, which has assisted police in identifying key search areas.

Leicestershire Police said officers had received a “large number of responses” from an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

However the force has urged members of the public not to attempt their own searches.

Locals say area around has been muddy floodplain for months as search for Xielo continues into fifth day

Thursday 22 February 2024 07:41 , Barney Davis

Leicestershire locals have said the initial search for Xielo would have been hindered by the muddy water rising out of the River Soar.

Xielo Maruziva, 2, has been missing since Sunday evening and his father was rushed to hospital after trying to save him.

One local to the nature reserve, said: “I live not too far away from there and go past the River Soar & Grand Union Canal every day. In good weather the river is shallow and clear, but it’s been high for ages and looks like mud.

“The whole area is a floodplain and has been bad on and off for months.”

His father said in a statement yesterday: “As a family we have been completely devastated over the past few days as the search for Xielo continues. It is hard to describe the pain and suffering we are going through.

“We would like to thank the search teams at the scene.

“We would also like to thank members of the public for all of your support. It is your prayers which are keeping us strong.”

The search operation continues on the River Soar in Leicester (Matthew Cooper/PA Wire)
The search operation continues on the River Soar in Leicester (Matthew Cooper/PA Wire)

Update on the search so far - who has taken part?

Thursday 22 February 2024 04:58 , Alex Ross

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr has shared the organisations involved in the search for the toddler who fell into the River Soar on Sunday.

As well as Leicestershire police officers, specialist teams from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service have taken part along with diving teams from Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire forces.

The National Police Air Service and drone unit continue to support officers on the ground.

The Environmental Agency has supported the operation with specialist mapping equipment which has assisted officers in identifying key search areas.

And Kent and West Mercia Police Search and Rescue team and the Metropolitan Police Marine Recovery dogs has also joined the operation.

Family being supported, police say

Thursday 22 February 2024 03:45 , Alex Ross

As searches of the River Soar take place today, police say they are continuing in their efforts to support the missing boy’s family.

Leicestershire Police told Leicester Live: “The child’s family are being supported by specialist officers and our thoughts are with them at this extremely difficult time.”

Anyone with information or who comes across something that may aid the search is urged to contact police as soon as possible.

Thanks to public for support

Thursday 22 February 2024 02:30 , Alex Ross

Ever since the first appeal for help on the search for missing Xielo, there has been strong support from people giving information or lending a hand in the hope of finding the toddler.

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr said: “I would also like to add that following the appeal we issued on Monday evening for witnesses, we have had a large number of responses and have identified a number of people who were in the area at the time who have provided us with information.

“Thank you to everyone who has made contact with us and helped us with our enquiries. It is very much appreciated by us all.

“While the weather conditions today do make the search more difficult for us, this will absolutely not stop our dedicated and specialist teams at the scene from doing everything they can. Our search operation today does very much remain ongoing.”

Recap on police message to the public on Wednesday

Thursday 22 February 2024 01:01 , Alex Ross

As the weather conditions worsened, Leicestershire Police said the priority remained to find Xielo, who fell in the River Soar on Sunday.

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr said: “As we now enter the fourth day of the search for the missing boy, we have been truly overwhelmed by the support we have received from forces and other agencies across the country as well as from our communities and the wider public. We really do thank you for this. The priority for us all remains to find this little boy and we are grateful for all of your help and support.

“Specialist officers continue to provide full support to the family and our thoughts very much remain with them. I thank them for their bravery, their support and co-operation with us at this extremely traumatic time.”

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr (PA)
Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr (PA)