A SIX-hour manhunt was launched after a teenager failed to return home from school.

Anthony Harrington, 14, who attends Blackburn Central High School, in Haslingden Road, went missing on Wednesday night after being sent to Darwen Vale as a punishement for swearing at a teacher.

His mother, Zoe, who runs the Aquamania cafe in Higher Audley, claims the teenager was placed in a town he was not familiar with, resulting in him getting lost after leaving shcool.He was taken to Darwen Vale by minibus from his school but it was his and his family’s responsibility to get home.

She said that instead of walking towards Ewood, he walked in the opposite direction and only realised he was going the wrong way when he saw a sign saying ‘welcome to Bolton’.

He told his mum that he turned around and started walking back across the moors, before knocking on a couple’s house in Bolton Road near the former Bear Hotel at around 9.30pm. Zoe said: “There were about 30 people out looking for him. People were posting things on Facebook and were out on the streets and in their cars trying to track him down. I kept thinking the worst.

“I’m really mad at the school for sending him to Darwen Vale. I pleaded with them not to. Anything could have happened to my son. There was no need to send him to another school, out of town, somewhere that he doesn’t know.

“I told them that I had taken his mobile and cash off him as a punishment the night before.”

She said a wave of relief came when she received a telephone call from a couple in Darwen who said her son was safe.

“I can’t thank them enough. Anthony said he was really scared and freezing. I have never seen him in such a state. He only had his school uniform and blazer on, and fingerless gloves, and the temperatures were below freezing that night. He said he kept walking, hoping to find something that he recognised.”

Headteacher Alan Chambers said the placement at Darwen Vale was a common arrangement with Blackburn and Darwen secondary schools and is a sanction that avoids exclusion for pupils who misbehave.

He said: “We shared his mum’s concern that the boy went missing. We did everything we could on Wednesday evening to help locate him. We checked that he had remained at Darwen Vale for the day and we took steps to telephone a number of his friends to try to find him on the night.

“We are still working to resolve the issue. We take the steps to make sure the pupils are delivered to the placement school, but it is the parent’s responsibility to get their child home safely.”