Missing boy Hoang Vinh Le has been found alive and well after being hidden from his grandmother and authorities for 16 months.
“The missing boy has been found,” grandmother Kim Huong Tran said as she showed off Vinh to our cameras.
“Finally I got him back.”
Looking at Vinh’s gorgeous smile, it’s hard to imagine he’s been separated from his loving grandmother for so long.
For more than a year, a bitter custody dispute has played out.
But Kim said her sleepless nights and tears were worth it for this moment.
Vinh’s only two years old, but the little boy’s first years have sadly been complicated by the behaviour of his parents, Lyn Kim Do and Hoang Thanh Le.
Kim helped raise Vinh when the couple split shortly after he was born in June 2020.
When they eventually reconciled, they left Vinh in Kim’s care.
But when he was nine months old, they changed their minds and got a court order for Vinh to live with his father, Thanh.
Thanh has a history of violence, so Kim didn’t want to hand the baby over.
But Thanh didn’t take no for an answer.
In April last year, the father snatched Vinh from a doctor’s waiting room.
“I’ve got the order from the federal court saying that the child’s to live with me until 18, or else I wouldn’t be snatching the kid off,” Thanh told police at the time.
The last time Vinh was seen alive was in May 2021, in photos Thanh posted on Facebook.
Thanh’s Facebook post said: “Just informing everyone that myself and my partner and our son Hoang Vinh Le is safe and all living happy together there for (sic) we are not missing. So I don’t know why we are listed as missing people LOL.”
The parents were arrested a week later and told police that they paid a woman named Kathy Nguyen $200 to take him for a night.
“Later in the future I must pay this person back for the time and the effort they have taken out to raise up my child,” Thanh said on social media.
Kim was heartbroken and at the time said she didn’t know if Vinh was alive.
Police searched properties in Sydney, regional New South Wales, and Perth, all without luck.
Meanwhile, the court increased pressure on the parents to give more information.
Lyn was jailed for six months, but kept her lips sealed.
A major breakthrough came
Finally, on Sunday, September 25, Kim got the phone call she had been waiting for — there had been a major breakthrough.
Police had called her to ask if she had lost her grandchild.
She recalled then being asked her grandchild’s name, date of birth and where he was lost, before she got to see Vinh on a video call with police to confirm she recognised him.
Vinh had been abandoned at a childcare centre in Campsie, in Sydney’s south-west.
Kim said she was told a young woman had brought Vinh to the daycare centre and asked to keep him there for 12 hours.
After three hours, the young woman was said to have called the childcare centre to say she urgently needed to go to Vietnam for a funeral.
“She want(ed) to keep him there for a day, but the lady say(s), ‘No, I don’t take care overnight. You have to come pick him up’, and no one pick(ed) him up for three days,” Kim said.
Kim said staff at the childcare centre recognised Vinh and called police.
NSW Police Detective Inspector Timothy Liddiard led the investigation to find Vinh for a year and a half.
“Oh look, it’s an extremely unique case. Certainly it’s not one I’ve been involved in previously, of this complexity,” Liddiard said.