Lucas Ward’s parents are devastated after the body of their little boy was found in a Gisborne river yesterday.

A member of the public found Lucas around midday in the Waimata River about 400m upstream from his grandparents’ property on Graham Rd.

Last night, the 4-year-old’s parents, Damon and Jessica Ward, were being comforted by family and friends. Mr Ward’s aunt, Connie Tait, said she had spoken to her nephew, who was “just distraught”. “My nephew is really devastated at the moment,” she said.

“He was so hoping that he was going to be found alive, but obviously that hasn’t happened.” Family members had met to discuss funeral arrangements and where the little boy would be laid to rest, Ms Tait said.

Although it was a distressing time for the family, she said there was also a feeling of relief, to be able to say goodbye to Lucas properly. “It’s closure. He’s been found and now he’s home and we can put him to rest.”  Great-uncle Brian Hunt told One News that Lucas’ mother was absolutely devastated.

“She’s lost her little boy. We’re all devastated.” Mr Hunt said a group of Gisborne schoolboys went to the riverbank and performed a haka yesterday.

“It was absolutely magnificent.” The search for the gregarious little boy had centred on the river, with police divers scouring the area after his bike was found on a path leading to a jetty.  A chip packet was also recovered from the river, believed to be similar to one given to him by his grandmother shortly before he disappeared on Tuesday afternoon last week.

Gisborne area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said the discovery of Lucas’ body was a relief for police and searchers. “I’m sure this will bring some sort of closure for the family of Lucas,” Mr Aberahama said. “This is an incredibly distressing time and our thoughts are with them and their extended family as they grieve for their little boy.”

A post-mortem examination will be conducted today and the case will be referred to the coroner.

Lucas disappeared as his grandmother unloaded groceries and answered a phone call in her suburban Kaiti home.  After police scaled back their search on Monday, his family still hoped to find Lucas and continued looking for him.  Dozens of searchers had looked for him on land and water, including the Gisborne harbour entrance and city beaches.

Ms Tait, who is the sister of Lucas’ grandmother, paid tribute to a happy boy who called her “Nanny Connie”. “He was a gorgeous little boy and someone who really loved his dad and mum. “We had so many people out in New Zealand and around the world praying for our family,” she said, “and I just wa

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