The search for 12yo Hussein showed us the best and worst of society.

At 12:40pm on Monday, 12-year-old Hussein Al Mansoory was found safe and well in Sydney after a frantic three-day search. 

For two long nights, Hussein, who is non-verbal and lives with Down syndrome and autism was on his own in the suburb of Auburn, last seen on Saturday morning near a local park.

"This is as high-risk as it gets for us as a missing person," Auburn police superintendent Simon Glasser told the media, as they appealed for the public's help in locating the boy. 

More than a hundred SES volunteers helped search, blasting Hussein's favourite song — Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody — from speakers, in the hopes of drawing him out. 

Locals were encouraged to check possible hiding spots near their homes and businesses — stairwells, foyers, garages, sheds, fire escapes. 

The community rallied, and it was a good samaritan that helped reunite him with his family. A staff member at a medical centre thought to check the facility's fire escape and found Hussein sitting there and (thankfully) smiling.

Amazingly, this story ended well. It showed us how quickly many in our society will run to those in need and how amazing people can be in a crisis.

It also showed us something ugly. 

There are a series of photos I can't get out of my head. 

They were taken at about midday Saturday by CCTV cameras at Auburn train station and showed a shoe-less Hussein wandering around in a shirt and a nappy. 

Auburn train station is a busy suburban hub, even on weekends. In one photo of Hussein, at least three adults can be seen in close proximity to him.

In another, he's snapped close to the turnstiles. Again, a very public area of the station. 


You mean to tell me no one thought to intervene? To check on him? To ask him where his parents were? To alert nearby train staff when they realised he was alone and non-verbal?

A 12-year-old in a nappy is not a common sight. It should have turned heads. It should have made people stop.

The 'bystander effect' tells us this isn't uncommon; the theory suggests people are less likely to offer help to a victim in the presence of other people. 

People assume someone else will intervene. They're in a hurry. It's 'not their business'. The basic theory is that there is a diffusion of responsibility.

You can certainly see how it could happen, and thinking inwardly we're probably all guilty of this in some form. 

But surely we can do better? Surely Hussein's story tells us that?

It took another 24 hours from those train station photos for him to be found. 

He was approached by a woman on Saturday night at about 9pm who alerted police, but he walked away before police arrived. 

This story is mostly good. So many people ran to that little boy's aid - they searched and stopped and helped. 

But I can't stop thinking about the dozens of people who didn't. Who would have seen him at the train station. Or wandering the streets and park alone. 

Let Hussein's story be a lesson to us all to not fall into the bystander trap. 

Surely, we can do better than that. Hussein should never have been missing that long.

Feature image: NSW Police. 

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