Facebook post about missing autistic boy and his dog is a hoax

16 January 2023
What was claimed

A boy with autism named Brayden and his dog are missing in Derbyshire.

Our verdict

This is a false appeal. The boy in the picture is called Kai and lives in Florida. Derbyshire police have previously warned people not to share posts like this one.

A post on Facebook falsely claims that a photograph shows an autistic boy called Brayden who has gone missing with his dog in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.

The post says: “@everyone HELP!!! #whaleybridge My son Brayden Thatcher took off this morning with our dog hank. He is autistic and has been missing for eight hours if anyone sees him please PM me please re-post on any sites.I already contacted police. [sic]”

Comments on the post have been disabled.

This post is false. The boy in the attached pictures is actually called Kai Niehaus. The pictures show him reportedly meeting the dog in Ohio, USA in 2016, after travelling from the family home in Japan. The BBC report says that Kai was five years old in the pictures, and had waited two years for an autism assistance dog to become available.

Last April, the Mirror reported that the family was living in Florida.

A large number of other Facebook posts are also circulating with almost identical text—often changing the boy’s surname, his location, and the photograph.

Full Fact has recently seen many examples of similar posts falsely claiming to be an urgent alert about a missing child, pensioner or pet.

Derbyshire Police has previously warned people against sharing Facebook posts about missing people with the comments disabled. The warning said: “Again, if the posts have comments disabled, please DO NOT share. Anyone wanting to reunite an vulnerable person would not disable comments [sic].”

It added: “We anticipate that once shared widely, the post will be changed to something else... possibly an ad for investments or other scams.”

Image courtesy of Mike Fox

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