RCMP have refused to comment on whether police were watching the B.C. home of three-year-old Kienan Hebert the night the abducted boy was returned, but the boy's father said the house was left open and unwatched on purpose.
"We left the doors unlocked hoping that he would bring him," Paul Hebert told media on Monday.
Police believe Kienan was taken from his Sparwood, B.C., home last Wednesday by Randall Hopley, 46, a resident of the community who has a long criminal record.
The boy's abductor managed to evade police for four days before slipping through the heavy police presence in the small southeastern Interior town and returning the boy to his family home undetected early Sunday morning.
The Hebert home was unoccupied at the time the boy was returned, with Kienan's large family staying with a neighbour a few doors away.
"It's kind of cool to think that we said 'bring him back to a safe place,' he brought him back to the house. It's kind of ironic," Paul Hebert said.
On Saturday afternoon, Hebert made an emotional public plea for whoever had his son to leave him in a safe location. Hours later, at about 3 a.m. MT on Sunday, a 911 call directed police to check the Hebert home.
When Paul Hebert walked into the house, after police secured it, he found his son asleep on a large upholstered chair.
"When I woke him up, it was unreal," Hebert said.
"He wasn't sure what was really going on. Once he realized what was happening, he knew he was home. He was safe."
Hebert said he held on tight to Kienan for a minute before passing him over to his mother, who held onto the boy until doctors could examine him.
On Sunday, RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk announced that the hospital exam results concluded that Kienan Hebert was physically unharmed.
Moskaluk was unwilling to discuss details of how the abductor was able to return the boy without getting caught, but Paul Hebert defended the police decision to leave the house unguarded Saturday night.
"If there was police watching, [the suspect] wouldn't have dropped him off here," Hebert said
The focus was on getting Kienan back, not catching a kidnapper, he said.
Moskaluk would not say whether police or a 911 operator spoke to Hopley before or after Kienan's return.
"Our investigation is now switching its focus from getting Kienan home safely to ensuring public safety," he said.
Police tactics secret
Moskaluk said he was also unable to release details of how police intend to find Hopley, as long as the search is underway.
Tactical forces from Alberta and across B.C. arrived in Sparwood, B.C., on Monday to join about 60 officers already searching for Hopley.
"We must all remember that this is an ongoing investigation," he said.
"Everything we say, and everything we do right now will have a direct effect and consequence as to the next outcomes we have in Sparwood, British Columbia, so we are being very, very cautious as to what we can say right now, what we are doing, why we are doing it. We all have to work together," he said.
There were hundreds of search and rescue volunteers in Sparwood in recent days looking for Kienan, but police said they will not be used in the manhunt because they are not trained to deal with a suspect if they come across one.
It does appear that police are changing other tactics as well. The roadblocks that surrounded the town in recent days were no longer in place on Monday morning.
Hopley has been the target of a large search effort since Wednesday, when he was named a suspect. Moskaluk made a direct appeal to Hopley to turn himself in on Sunday.
"Do the right thing and call us," he said. "Call the police."
Playing with his brothers and sisters
RCMP first learned of Kienan's mysterious return after someone called 911 around 3 a.m. PT, telling police to go to the Hebert home, which had been cordoned off and unoccupied since the family found the boy missing on the morning of Sept. 7.
When police arrived at the home, they found Kienan asleep, holding a blanket.
Moskaluk also said Kienan has limited verbal skills and would probably be unable to tell investigators anything about his abductor or where he had been held.
Hospital staff examined the boy and found he was unharmed. Police believe the emotional plea Paul Hebert made for his son's safe return on Saturday may have played a role.
At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, the child's father thanked the person who had returned Kienan.
"It was the right thing to do," Paul Hebert said. "I thank God that Kienan was returned unharmed."
Hebert began choking up as he told the media that his son was happily back at home with his seven siblings.
"He's playing with his brothers and sisters," he said. "Thank you. Thank you."
Before his return, the Heberts had last seen Kienan when they put him to bed on the evening of Sept. 6.
They reported him missing the next morning and police issued an Amber Alert in B.C. later in the day. The Amber Alert was extended to Alberta as an "information alert" on Saturday.
Police have also said an attempted abduction of another child in the area occurred shortly before Kienan was taken.
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