A framed photo of 10-year-old Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou sits in the corner of the family’s room.
It’s now been over four months since he went missing.
“Some days, we are up; some other days, we are down,” said the boy’s father, Kouadio Frédéric Kouakou.
“But we keep faith and hope that Ariel’s coming back soon at home.”
Still convinced that his son was kidnapped, Kouakou has written an open letter to the alleged abductor.
He writes that his heart has no room for hatred, he forgives the person and hopes they come forward.
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“We strongly believe that Ariel is alive and is living with somebody,” said Kouakou.
“For us, telling that person we forgive — we will help that person start a new life.”
Ariel was last seen on March 12.
His family says he left his home in Montreal’s Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough to visit a friend, who lives a few blocks away.
After his disappearance, police set up a command post in the area, went door-to-door and combed the river near Ariel’s home; there was no sign of the boy.
In April, police ended their river search, saying the waters had become too dangerous for divers.
Montreal police say they believe Ariel drowned; to date, they have received around 400 tips.
“We’re still conducting a criminal investigation,” said Ian Lafrenière, Montreal police spokesperson.
“We still believe that the most probable cause would have been an accident — a very sad accident.”
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The boy’s family rejects the theory, insisting he was kidnapped.
“Police should show evidence — there’s no evidence — so for us, this hypothesis cannot be valuable,” said Kouakou.
In June, the family created a petition, asking the province to create a joint specialized response unit for presumed criminal kidnappings.
They say they’ll continue those efforts in hopes of bringing Ariel back.
“Ariel, you are our champion. The life of a champion is hard,” said Kouakou.
“I know you will come back home, this is a hardship that you are going through and we are with you. Be strong because we are strong. You will come back home, you will take your place again, you will go back to your activities, to soccer and to school with your friends. We have no doubt.”
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