Saira Khan has spoken out about the heart-stopping moment when she realised her son was not in the house after she’d put him to bed.
The TV presenter, who rose to fame after her participation in the 2005 series of The Apprentice, wrote an emotional article for the Daily Mail describing the night when her son disappeared from his room.
According to Saira’s account, her seven-year-old son Zac was put to bed by 8pm, after which she and her husband Steve sat down watching TV. Twenty minutes later they got a phone call saying their son had been found wandering the streets.
‘I don’t want to alarm you, but we’ve just had a call from a lady saying she’s found a little boy wandering the streets of Oxford. He says his name’s Zac and he goes to our school’, the concerned parent informed her, to which Saira replied, ‘Don’t be silly, I’ve just put my son to bed. It must be another Zac.’
When her husband confirmed Zac was not in his bed as they thought, Saira said that flashes of Madeleine McCann, who was taken from her bed while on holiday in 2013, started going through her mind.
The two went to collect Zac from his friend’s house, where he was fortunately found safe and sound, but of course, the incident could have ended on a far less happy note.
Saira discovered that Zac decided to go on his secret escape because he wanted to play games on the iPad with his friend from school and do everything that his parents ‘never allow at home’.
He had actually asked his parents for a playdate with his friend, but Saira says she never got round to setting it up, so Zac took matters into his own hands.
As Zac knew his parents’ routine, the seven-year-old left his room when he knew his parents were watching TV and let himself out the front door. Faced with a busy roundabout, wearing his pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown, he approached a woman for help.
Saira and Zac, pictured in 2009
To explain why he was wandering around alone at night and, to make matters even stranger, in his nightwear, he told the lady that his parents had left him in the car while they went on holiday to Tanzania but that he managed to escape.
With the lady’s help and the assistance of a hand-drawn map, Zac managed to get to his friend’s house and it was then that his friend’s father called the school.
Reflecting about why her child, who she describes as ‘a very calm, kind natured boy’, would do somethings so out of character, Saira says that the series of adventure books he was reading might have inspired his escapade. The books are about an eight-year-old boy, Charlie Small, who goes on solo adventures to meet dinosaurs and tigers.
Saira with Zac and her younger daughter Amara
Because of this, Saira now points out that she pays much more attention to what her son is reading, making sure he understands the difference between fiction and real life.
‘He’s moved on to Harry Potter, and I’ve told him that nobody really has magical powers’, Saira wrote. ‘Call me paranoid, but the last thing you want is for a child to be jumping out of a window on a broomstick because they think they can fly.’
The traumatic situation has also led the 45-year-old mum to give Zac a bit more freedom, occasionally allowing him to ride the bus on his own and taking his little sister to the park. However, the former Apprentice contestant also admmitted to seek professional help if something like this happens again.
Despite the initial panic, Saira says her anger was mixed with admiration for her adventurous son: ‘He was willing to rebel against his disciplinarian mum. He’s like a little entrepreneur.’