Missing Canberra boy Phoenix Mapham was on foot in a remote area of Tallaganda National Park with no warm clothes, no water and no obvious place to take shelter when police found him on Thursday afternoon, bringing an end to a week-long search.
About 4.40pm, two police officers on trail bikes found the six-year-old and his mother Tessa Woodcock in an area off the Mulloon fire trail, in the national park south of Canberra.
Ms Woodcock, who does not have custody of Phoenix, allegedly took him unlawfully from Orana Steiner School in Weston about 1.30pm on Thursday, August 23.
Officers were able to pinpoint the pair's location after smelling a fire, having earlier been tipped off by a member of the public who was suspicious after spotting a woman and small boy in the Carwoola area.
Phoenix spent the night back home with his father Cliff Mapham after undergoing health checks at Canberra Hospital.
Mr Mapham said Phoenix gave him a big hug and told him he loved him when the pair were reunited.
"I just felt very, very relieved that I knew he was back safe," Mr Mapham said on Friday morning.
Mr Mapham said Phoenix was in good spirits after a much-needed sleep.
"The first thing we did [after getting home] was give him a warm bath and a warm meal," he said.
"He went straight to sleep after that ... he was pretty tired, so he fell asleep at the drop of a hat."
ACT Policing Detective Acting Superintendent Harry Hains also expressed his relief at Phoenix's safe return after a mammoth search effort that involved more than 100 officers from the territory, along with NSW Police members.
At least 30 ACT officers were on the ground searching the area in which Phoenix was found, while the Southcare Toll helicopter also aided with the search.
"It was lucky that Phoenix was found and reunited with his father before being forced to spend the night under these conditions," Detective Acting Superintendent Hains said, noting the lack of suitable clothing, shelter and water.
Detective Acting Superintendent Hains said the investigation into Phoenix's disappearance was ongoing.
He said police were not sure exactly where Phoenix and Ms Woodcock had been in the week they were missing, and how soon they arrived in Tallaganda National Park before being found.
Police have found the white Holden Vectra and blue Subaru Forester that the pair were believed to be travelling in, though Detective Acting Superintendent Hains said he was unsure exactly where the cars had been located.
"[Phoenix and Ms Woodcock] were on foot in this remote bush area," he said.
"There was no tent located with them."
The case sparked the ACT's first ever use of the amber alert, which triggers an urgent nationwide broadcast in child abduction or high-risk missing child cases.
Detective Acting Superintendent Hains said early indications were that the use of the alert had been a success, and responded to questions about whether it should have been issued earlier than Tuesday afternoon by saying all police processes were under constant review.
He said police wanted to thank the public for the many tips they had provided, and for sharing ACT Policing's social media posts about Phoenix so widely that they were seen by more than 1 million people.
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