The fear of being punished for bathing in a nearby river without permission is believed to have triggered the chain of events leading to the disappearance of the seven Orang Asli pupils and the tragedy that eventually befell them.
Kelantan police chief Mazlan Lazim said the incident began on Aug 22 when a group of 25 students from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Tohoi went for a swim in a river near the school at 1pm.
The school guard later informed the warden and the warden had then called three of the 25 students involved and informed them they would be punished the next day.
"Around 9pm the same day, 23 of the 25 students planned to flee to their villages, namely Kampung Penad and Kampung Gawin the next morning (Aug 23)," said Mazlan at a briefing during the handing over of donations by the Welfare Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti) president, Rosmah Mansor, at Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital in Kota Baru, today.
Mazlan said on Aug 23, the hostel warden checked from 7am to 9am and found 23 students missing from their dormitories. The warden, with the hostel management assistant, security guards and two villagers, searched for the pupils.
"They met 16 students in a location at 6pm and persuaded them to return to the hostel, however, the seven pupils were yet to be found. The school management with the help of villagers searched for them from 9pm until 12.30am the next day (Aug 24).
He said the pupils' plans to run away from the boarding school came to light from interviews conducted on the 16 pupils who had returned to the hostel.
On Aug 24, the school authorities and the villagers continued the search from 8am to 3pm, covering a distance of one kilometre from the school , and also met the pupils' parents in Kampung Penad and Kampung Gawin.
"However, after failing to find the seven pupils, the school authorities lodged a police report at 2.25am on Aug 25. Gua Musang District Police Headquarters (IPD) sent five personnel to Pos Tohoi at 9.30am to carry out search operations in nearby areas," he said.
He said on Aug 25, the search and rescue (SAR) operations for the seven pupils had been mobilised, thus rejecting claims on social sites that the SAR team only started the operation on Aug 27.
"The school also delayed lodging a police report because cases of Orang Asli children running away from their hostels were not new and they have been found in their homes before," he said.
Mazlan said more than 350 personnel from various security agencies and the public were involved in the search operations for the seven pupils, until the SAR team found the first body on Oct 7.
Miksudiar Alui, 11, dan Norieen Yaakob, 10, were found alive last Friday while two others - Sasa Sobrie, eight, and Ika Ayel, nine - have been confirmed dead.
Police categorised two children, namely Haikal Yaakob, eight, and Linda Rosli, eight, as still missing despite two skeletal remains of children having been found because there were no DNA results.
However, on Sunday, the skeletal remains of a child found in Sungai Perias the previous day has been confirmed as Juvina by her father, David Kuasam.