Three-year-old boy who disappeared from Hermannsburg died of dog attacks, police believe

Police in the Northern Territory believe that a young boy from a native community in central Australia, who died on New Year’s Day, was killed in an animal attack.

Two dogs from Hermannsburg, southwest of Alice Springs, have been seized for further forensic examination.

The three-year-old boy, who had developmental delays, was reported missing by the family late Friday night, leading to a major search and rescue effort.

He was found in the community with injuries around 9 a.m. the next morning before being taken to the local health clinic where he died.

Police on Sunday declared a major investigation into the death, and Acting Assistant Commissioner Sachim Sharma said on Monday that the boy’s injuries were in line with a dog attack.

Officers are now pursuing a theory that the three-year-old got lost and was attacked overnight.

“A pathological examination has at this stage established that there is an infestation consistent with animal infestation,” said Assistant Commissioner Sharma.

“The investigation will continue, but at present the investigation and the evidence point in that direction.”

The assistant commissioner said the animals seized were camp dogs – a common term for the mixed breed dogs, which are somewhat tame but generally roam freely in some remote communities.

He said the owners of the animals cooperated with investigators and were not charged at this time.

NT Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Sachin Sharma speaks at a press conference.
NT Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Sachin Sharma said support was provided to members of the local community.(ABC News: Myles Houlbrook-Walk)

Police are trying to find out if there were witnesses to the attack.

Assistant Commissioner Sharma said their inquiry would also try to determine exactly when the incident took place.

“We do not rule out any ugly game, but as I said, this is a very significant revelation in our investigation,” he said.

“Like I said yesterday, when there is no information that there is no unregulated game, we will always investigate it to the nth degree.”

The new development comes after a team of detectives, forensic scientists and local police were deployed to the community after the boy’s death and interviewed members of the local community door to door.

Resilience and engagement officers are also in the community to offer support.

“You can imagine how the family and the community are doing, including investigating officers,” said Assistant Commissioner Sharma.

“We will keep a close eye on members of the local community. Should they need further assistance, we will help them.”

Police have expressed their condolences to the boy’s family.

A report is being prepared for the forensic pathologist.

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