An eagle-eyed delivery driver spotted a missing Sussex schoolboy after reading about the search just minutes earlier on Twitter.
Scores of police officers went on the hunt for Henry Clayson in Uckfield town centre and the surrounding countryside.
His parents called the police after waking yesterday morning (January 8) to find he had disappeared from their New Road home.
Police put out a public appeal for Henry, who was distinctively wearing pyjama bottoms, smart shoes and a puffa jacket.
The 24 police officers, 14 PCSOs, two dogs and a helicopter were prompted by sharp-eyed Parcelforce employee Anthony Elvy who spotted the boy.
Mr Elvy, who is also a wedding photographer, said: “It came up via Twitter, one of my friends had re-tweeted the police’s appeal.
“Moments later I drove through Uckfield and saw him walking down Bell Lane.
“I wasn’t sure if it was him because he was quite tall for a 12-year-old.
“I called the police and within 20 seconds the helicopter was overhead.
“Who would have thought that Twitter, which is potentially a complete waste of time, could be so useful?”
Henry was returned to his family safe and well four hours after going missing.
Spead the word
Sergeant Simon Kind, who led the search, said: “We have got to use things like Twitter to help our searches because it helps to spread the word.
“I am delighted with local people and the help they gave.
“We were very pleased to see Henry and he was absolutely fine.”
Director at organisation Missing People Ross Miller said the power of using the social website to find missing people is unprecedented.
Appeal Tweets from their account @missingpeople or page facebook.com/missing people.uk reach up to 20 million people.
Mr Miller said: “When someone goes missing it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but thanks to social media you can get the message out very quickly and reach a lot of people.”
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Mother dies suddenly just seven weeks after birth of baby
- Sussex pupils buck national trend of falling GCSE success
- Rare skeleton of a dodo is up for auction
- Brighton's first Ethiopian restaurant to introduce one of the healthiest diets in the world
- "There needs to be lifeguards" - family of man who drowned alongside four friends calls for changes at Camber Sands