Boy, 11, who vanished for 4 years, reached out to parents after being kidnapped

On January 12, 2007, Craig and Pam Akers were finally reunited with their missing son, Shawn Hornbeck, who vanished five years earlier.

The 11-year-old disappeared without a trace while riding his bike and was kidnapped by pizza shop boss, Michael Devlin.

Following years of pain and fear of what happened to him, Shawn was found when he was 15, alongside 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who had been missing for four days.

Both were living with 20st pizza parlour manager Devlin, 41, who snatched them, writes The Mirror.

He was caught after a white truck was seen driving away after Ownby was taken and the boys were found in his US home.

His parents were told that he was safe – four years after going through any mum or dad's worst nightmare.

The couple said they broke down when they got the news from police.

Speaking at the time, Craig said: "It is the phone call I will remember most for the rest of my life.

"This is the best day of our lives. It is hard to even come up with words to express the feeling. It has been like a dream, and we are afraid that we are going to wake up."

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When he returned home, Shawn's parents listened as their son talked for hours to sisters Jackie, 22, and Jenny, 20.

Speaking at the time, she said: "They are just happy being together. Shawn asked for spaghetti and meatballs, his favourite. That meant a lot."

Shawn spoke about his experience to Oprah Winfrey a year later and explained he used the internet to ask his parents a heart-rending question.

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He said he thought about his family everyday and prayed every night he would be reunited with them.

He explained he had access to the internet and the phone but couldn't contact them.

But he revealed he sent a message to the website that had been set up as a part of the search to find him using his real name.

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Oprah asks: "I had read that you had gone to the Internet site to asked 'how long will you be looking for your son'. What did you feel doing that? Was that a way to connect with them?"

Shawn replies said: "I was hoping it might give some sort of hint."

But his dad thought it could be someone who had the same name or a person who was pulling a prank.

Sadly, Craig passed away in 2019 from bladder cancer aged 57.

After he died, Pam said she was "so grateful" he was able to spend more time with Shawn.

Devlin pled guilty to all the counts against him and was sentenced to 72 years behind bars.

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