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Calgary family pleads for the safe return of their five-year-old son and his grandparents

Calling him their "superhero," the parents of a Calgary boy who went missing with his grandparents are appealing for the five-year-old's return. Investigators say they are treating the case as a suspicious disappearance.

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Jennifer O'Brien clutched a tiny blue T-shirt belonging to her missing son while making a tearful plea for information about five-year-old Nathan and his grandparents. Rod O'Brien, Nathan's father, carried a colourful‎ butterfly the boy had made.

The boy and his grandparents, Alvin Cecil and Kathryn Faye Liknes, were reported missing around 10 a.m. MT on Monday, when Nathan's mother went to pick up her son from the Liknes' Calgary home. Nathan went for a sleepover the night before, and was dropped off around 10 p.m. Sunday.

"Your whole family loves you to every star and back," Mr. O'Brien said, addressing his missing son, at a news conference Wednesday. "Nathan, you are our superhero right now."

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"Mom and Dad need you to be brave right now. To whoever has Nathan, please find it in your heart to drop off our little angel, Nathan, to which he can be rescued and reunited with his brothers and his family," Mr. O'Brien said.

"Nathan, we love you big. We will see you soon."

Ms. O'Brien also spoke, wanting her son to hear her voice. "Mommy and Daddy love you," she said.

The Likneses were having an estate sale at their home in Calgary's southwest. They sold the home last year and were leasing it back. They planned to go to Edmonton for about three months, then Mazatlan, Mexico, and back to Edmonton, where they bought a house, a family member said at the news conference.

A reward is not on the table, although the family has considered it. The grandparents are not suspects, and police do not have a motive.

The Likneses do not have any known enemies, their daughter Ms. O'Brien said. She would not say whether there were valuables left in the house.

The couple was flanked with teary family members when they made their public plea.

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Calgary Police Service said it has obtained CCTV footage. The police are asking anyone who purchased items at the estate sale to bring photos of the goods to the Parkhill Community Centre on Thursday.

Staff Sergeant Doug Andrus‎ said there are "marks" on the side of the home that run "a distance." The Liknes home was found in a condition inconsistent with their habits, police said.

The homicide unit is investigating, but police hope the three will be found alive. An Amber Alert is in effect and about 100 tips have come in from across the country, he said. Six officers are dedicated to handling those leads, and about 80 officers have had some involvement in the case since it launched.

Border officials have been notified, but this has not generated any leads.

Nathan, who is three feet tall with blond curly hair and brown eyes, was last seen in peach shorts and a stripped blue hoodie.

Mr. Liknes, 66, is about six feet tall, weighs 200 pounds and has grey-blond hair. He has a distinctive walk. Ms. Liknes is 53, five feet and three inches tall, weighs about 120 pounds, sports red-brown hair, and has green eyes, Inspector Keith Cain said.

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Police have said there are no custody issues with the family – the boy's parents are married and he is their biological son – and police have no history with the family, who are being co-operative.

The grandparents' vehicles are accounted for, as are those of the family.

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