MONTREAL — The body of a child found Tuesday on the banks of Riviere-des-Mille-Iles in Terrebonne, Que., is Adam Benhamama, a two-year-old autistic boy who had been missing since April 3.
Dr. Louise Nolet, Quebec’s chief coroner, confirmed Tuesday evening that the Montreal morgue has taken custody of the body.
The toddler, who would have turned three June 22, disappeared while playing hide-and-seek near water in the Auteuil district of Laval, triggering an extensive search.
A passerby spotted the remains at the water’s edge.
Adam had last been reported wearing a black jacket with detachable hood, green nylon pants, blue running shoes and a black toque.
Adam’s family emigrated from Morocco six years ago, and live in Anjou, on the eastern part of Montreal Island, with an older sister, 7, and a younger brother.
The youngster had been diagnosed as mildly autistic — hearing impaired and speech delayed. He went missing during a visit with his father and sister to a sick friend in Laval.
Police and volunteers conducted a painstaking search of the area for several days near the home where he had last been reported seen. They found no trace of either the boy or his clothing.
“Since this little boy has disappeared, the family has not been doing well at all, at all,” a subdued Pina Arcamone, of the Missing Children’s Network, said before the youngster’s identity was officially confirmed. “You can tell she’s having a very difficult time coping,” she said of Adam’s mother, with whom she recently visited.
“She misses her little boy a lot. “She’s been the primary caregiver for the child as well,” Arcamone added. The child disappeared “on the day she decided to stay home and rest.”
“It all happened in just a few seconds — she just couldn’t fathom a life without Adam.”
The local Moroccan community especially has rallied for the family, Arcamone said, and the father’s mother and brother came from Morocco.
Adam’s mother “can’t even go into his room . . . Every, everything reminds her (of him). There’s an empty place at the dinner table, for example, because Adam is not there.”
For many weeks, Arcamone added, the child’s mother had been clinging to “the slim chance that he did not fall into the water, because nothing has been found for such a long time.
“She implored us to look at other possibilities, that maybe he did wander off with someone.
“She just needed to know.”
Terrebonne, just north of Laval, is about 27 kilometres north of Montreal.