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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nadeem Badshah

Underwater search experts join search for Xielo Maruziva in Leicester

People in search boats
The operation to find Xielo has been focusing on the stretch of the river around Watermead Park and Birstall. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Underwater search experts from a private firm are to join the operation to find a two-year-old boy who fell into the River Soar earlier this month, police have said.

Experts from Specialist Group International (SGI), who were involved in the search for Nicola Bulley – whose body was found in the River Wyre in Lancashire last February – are to join the operation on Tuesday.

A search was launched to find Xielo Maruziva after reports that the boy fell into the water on 18 February in Aylestone Meadows, a nature reserve close to Marsden Lane in Leicester that had flooded during torrential rain. Police said SGI would join the efforts after “further conversations with search specialists and Xielo’s family”.

Leicestershire police have been supported by specialist diving teams from the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire forces, as well as officers and search and rescue teams from across the country.

The child was with his family when he fell into the river from a towpath, Leicestershire police said. Xielo’s father entered the water to try to reach the toddler, but was unable to retrieve him. He was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure and was later discharged.

Assistant chief constable Michaela Kerr said: “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 at 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. I would like to reassure you that our operation is continuing and our teams will be carrying out coordinated searches at various points along the river.

“Our decision to involve SGI in the search [is] in liaison with Xielo’s family and having spoken to both the company and independent specialists. I’d also like to remind the public that the river is dangerous and that they should not go into the water themselves.”

The search for the boy is in its second week, and efforts have been focused on the stretch of river around Watermead Park and Birstall, police said.

Last week, Xielo’s parents described their son as a “cheeky, funny” boy and “a bundle of joy”. The toddler’s mother described him as “charming and creative”, adding: “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.”

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