16-months ago, we shared a story about a missing toddler. Hoang Vinh Le was 17 months old when he disappeared from Canberra.
The story confused all of Australia for several reasons. At the time, Vinh wasn’t in the care of his mum or his dad. For most of his life, his parents – Lyn Kim Do and Hoang Thanh Le – were not together.
Vinh lived with his maternal grandmother, Kim, who had legal custody of the little boy. When Vinh was around nine months old, his father changed his mind and wanted his son back. However, Kim was concerned about Thanh’s violence so refused.
Snatched from a doctor’s office
Vinh’s father then allegedly snatched his son from a doctor’s office. The little boy was there with his grandmother and Kim contacted the police.
The last time Vinh was seen alive was in May 2021, in photos.
Thanh posted on Facebook.
“Just informing everyone that myself and my partner and our son Hoang Vinh Le is safe and all living happy together there for (sic) we are not missing. So I don’t know why we are listed as missing people LOL.”
Police tracked down Lyn and Thanh and told them they had to give the little boy back.
Parents paid a woman $200 to take their son
This is where the story gets strange.
They told police that they met a woman at a coffee shop in Canberra, allegedly by the name of “Kathy Nguyen”. She took the infant after Vinh’s parents paid her $200 to “watch” their son. They told the police it was for the night.
However, this was the last we heard of the toddler.
The search for missing Vinh has continued behind the scenes with police searching several locations in Canberra and Sydney including Cabramatta, Bankstown, Liverpool, West Wyalong, Temora and Wagga Wagga.
Police also continued to put pressure on Vinh’s parents to tell the truth, but they refused. Even when Lyn was jailed for six months, she remained tight-lipped.
Meanwhile, Hoang’s maternal grandmother has continued to hold on to the hope that her grandson would be found and returned to her.
Missing toddler found 16 months later
On 25 September 2022, 16 months after her grandson went missing, Kim got the call she had been praying for – her grandson had been found.
He was safe, alive, and well. In Sydney. At a daycare centre.
Dropped off at daycare but never picked up
The missing toddler had been dropped off there three days prior by a young woman. It’s not known if the child attended the daycare centre regularly or if this was his first day.
During the day, the young woman called the Campsie centre to say she couldn’t pick him up. She had to go to Vietnam for a funeral.
The daycare staff told her she would have to come and get the little boy – they cannot keep a child overnight or for several days.
However, she didn’t come. The little boy remained at the facility in the care of the staff for three days.
On the third day, one of the staff thought she might recognise the little boy. She remembered the story of his disappearance in 2021 and called the police. Police identified Vinh and contacted Kim.
Police asked her a bit about her grandson before she got to see Vinh on a video call with police to confirm she recognised him. After a paternity test confirmed Vinh’s identity and an emergency court sitting granted Kim custody, she was finally allowed to bring him home.
‘A bit frightened’
Kim and her grandson are now back together. However, her grandson no longer responds to his name.
I don’t know what they call(ed) him, a different name. I call him Vinh or before I call(ed) him Vincent,” Kim told A Current Affair,
While he’s been missing, Vinh has learned to walk and talk a little, but only in Vietnamese.
“He cries during the night. So when he sleeps I’m always there with him. I think he’s a bit frightened because he just doesn’t want anyone to leave him.”
While Kim is so grateful to have her grandson, who she still has legal custody of, back, she is concerned about where he has been for the past 16 months.
An extremely unique case
NSW Police Detective Inspector Timothy Liddiard led the investigation to find Vinh for a year and a half.
“Oh look, it’s an extremely unique case. Certainly it’s not one I’ve been involved in previously, of this complexity,” Liddiard said.
Police are continuing their investigation and will hopefully be able to piece together what exactly happened.
“We certainly have a bit of wrap up to do where we need to try and track down Vinh’s movements for that period of time. But ultimately it was very satisfying to be able to reunite the family.”