'It was only when they found him I knew it was real - it's any parent's worst nightmare'

Kayela Smith with Xielo, 2
-Credit: (Image: No credit)

During the agonising four months from when toddler Xielo Maruziva tragically fell into the River Soar to the discovery of his body mere yards from where he vanished, his mother endured what she describes as "every parent's worst nightmare". Kayela Smith, 22, faced days so bleak she couldn't leave her bed, and at other times, she felt an overwhelming urge to flee Leicester.

Kayela, supported by family, would frequently visit the spot in Aylestone Meadows where her two year old son slipped into the water during a family walk, clinging to the faint hope that he might miraculously be found alive.

"I was always just holding out hope - hoping he didn't really go in the water, that he was taken by someone and was still alive," Kayela confided to LeicestershireLive. "It was only when they found him I knew it was real and that he did fall in."

In the early days of the search, Kayela was often at the riverside, as much as her mental state would allow, comforted by the presence of numerous relatives who were constantly there. Yet, for Kayela, the pain was sometimes too intense.

"For me, being there was also overwhelming," she admitted. "I felt helpless and horrible knowing I couldn't do anything. It wasn't like I was able to get into the water or go on the boats.", reports Leicestershire Live.

"The whole thing has been horrible and traumatic. It's any parent's worst nightmare."

Kayela, heartbroken after the loss of her son Xielo, shared a poignant view into her life in Humberstone without him. Describing her son as a "cheeky, friendly, smart, caring and independent little boy" who "never failed to make us laugh or smile" she articulated the impact of her grief.

"It was me and Xielo, and now it's just me by myself."

Needing escape yet feeling trapped, Kayela has grappled with conflicting emotions. "Sometimes in the past months I just couldn't be at home. Sometimes I needed to be away from Leicester - go off to London to see my cousin or something - but sometimes it was also hard to feel the motivation to leave the house."

The outside world poses its own challenges, with anxiety gripping her when venturing out in Leicester. "I've had really bad anxiety about being outside in Leicester because some people know I'm Xielo's mum and I've feared people were going to stare at me and stop me and ask me questions that I couldn't answer because I wasn't there when it happened."

Kayela recounted the tragic day when Xielo fell into the river while walking with his father's family members; his dad's sister and aunt immediately reached out for help. His father valiantly attempted to rescue him, diving into the silt-brown, flooded waters.

Leicestershire Police responded to the call and initiated an extensive search from around 5pm on Sunday, February 18, deploying extra resources from neighbouring forces and consulting experts at Search Group International. This relentless effort continued until Thursday, March 21, when they had to scale back the operation without any sign of Xielo.

Tragically, the boy's body was discovered by park workers on Wednesday, June 6, almost 16 weeks after he was reported missing. Kayela stated that Xielo's body was found near Pebble Beach, not far from where he had originally disappeared.

"He was found in a stream very near where he went in," his mother conveyed. "It was in an area where the police didn't think they would find him because of the way the water flows."

"The police said they weren't focused on the area where he was found, but they had explored that stream. I feel like if they had found him sooner it wouldn't have been so traumatic."

She explained further. "The police didn't have much research to help because you don't have too many toddlers going into rivers like this."

As she pondered the future, Kayela shared: "I don't think things will change. I don't think I can move on. I know things will probably be somewhat better, but that absence will always be there."

With the heartbreaking discovery of Xielo, Kayela is now preparing for his funeral. Determined to give her son the farewell he deserves, she has started a fund-raising campaign with a goal of £6,000 to cover the funeral costs and a memorial gathering.

She expressed: "Hopefully there will be a lot of people. I want people to be able to pay their respects."

To find the appeal, you can search 'Go Fund Me Xielo Maruziva' online.