1 dad's 2-week nightmare

For more than two excruciating weeks, Mr Ramli (not his real name) had no news of his two sons.

Mr Ramli, who is in his 40s, was so desperate that he placed an advertisement in a newspaper, asking for help to find them.

The boys, aged 12 and 15, went missing on Jan 26 while their father, who works in the hospitality industry, was in Johor Baru to attend to some personal matters. His sons were alone at home on the night he left. He returned home the next day to find them gone.

Though his boys returned home on Feb 13, Mr Ramli still recalls the sleepless nights he spent worrying.

"I did not look for them initially, because this was not the first time they had left home," he said.

In November, the boys ran away for two days before Mr Ramli and his friends found them, he said during an interview at his two-room rented flat in central Singapore.

This time, he waited five days.

"There was (still) no sign of them, so I started to get desperate. I stayed up late and started wandering around my neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning, in the hope of finding my boys," he said.

Mr Ramli made a police report on Jan 31. On Feb 11, he spent $150 on the newspaper ad.

Unknown to him, his children were spending their days at a mosque and their nights on the street.

Mr Ramli said his sons, who had the house keys, would return home when he was at work to look for cash.

"They probably refused to come home because they knew I'd be angry about the stealing," he said.

He only found out that the boys were at the mosque through some friends.

Mr Ramli said: "On Feb 12, I went to the mosque to ask around.

"The following day, they confronted my boys. The people at the mosque called the police."

Mr Ramli said the police called him that afternoon to say that his sons had been found.

He admitted closer supervision could have prevented the boys from running away.

Mr Ramli - who divorced in 2006 and has custody of his sons - said he works long hours, from 7pm to 7am. As a result, his boys are often home alone.

"My sons started Internet gaming last year, and this was when all the trouble started," he said.

Mr Ramli is arranging for flexible work hours so that he can be home at night to watch over his sons. His girlfriend, who is in her 30s and works in the hospitality industry as well, helps out.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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