Australia outback: family found dead, child missing in Northern Territory

A MAJOR land and air search is now underway for a child after three people were found dead in a remote area in the Northern Territory.

A land and air search will be carried out on Thursday in an attempt to locate the 12-year-old.

Police said the child's body was located 120 metres away from a family of three who were found dead yesterday near an abandoned vehicle on the outskirts of the community of Willowra, 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

Police were alerted to the deaths of two adults and a child after a man raised the alarm at the Willowra Health Clinic just before 12.30pm Wednesday.

The bodies of a young family - a 19-year-old man, a 19-year-old woman and a three-year-old boy - were found yesterday about 4.5 kilometres from their broken-down vehicle.

It is believed the group may have died from exposure after leaving their broken down vehicle and not in a auto crash as was initially reported.

"The whereabouts of this 12-year-old boy are not known at this point in time", Duty Superintendent Shaun Gill told ABC radio on Thursday.

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Superintendent Nobbs has said earlier that the four occupants of the auto were seen leaving Willowra on November 2 and were bound for nearby Yarra Yarra.

Police do not believe the deaths are suspicious, and food and water were found at the scene.

First reports to police on Wednesday indicated the vehicle had crashed but once investigators arrived it was clear there had not been a crash.

"One of the avenues we're looking at is that they've walked off from a vehicle in extreme weather and may have got caught out".

According to police, family members have been told about the child's disappearance but have not authorized the release of his name.

Southern Desert Division Superintendent Jody Nobbs said police were yet to rule out that there may have been more passengers.

"He will be a critical part of the investigation".

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