The family of missing Liam Smith have said they are “realistic” about the challenges of finding him three months after he disappeared.
The 16-year-old, from Aberdeen, was last seen boarding a 202 Stagecoach at Union Square bus station at 1.11pm on Saturday, November 17.
Officers believe he got off the bus at Crathes, Banchory, and a sighting was made of him at Crathes Estate that afternoon.
His family have spoken out three months since his disappearance, saying Liam “wasn’t feeling himself” at the time he went missing.
They said: “It is now three months since Liam was last seen and it has been and continues to be an incredibly difficult time for us.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support from members of the public and the communities of the north-east.
“While we are very grateful to everyone who has contacted us with good intentions and offers to help we would respectfully request that we are now not directly contacted and that our privacy is respected.
“Understandably it has been a highly stressful and emotional time since Liam left home and as a family we are struggling to come to terms with his disappearance.
“With this in mind, we ask that all new information is directed to the police and not the family.”
The family added they are “realistic” about the challenges faced by search teams in their bid to find him.
They said: “We recognise that many people have been personally affected by this and have created messages to share online in order to raise awareness of Liam’s disappearance, which is something we appreciate greatly.
“We are extremely grateful to the police and those who have supported their inquiries including the mountain rescue teams of Braemar and Aberdeen. We know that the information available to them has been fully investigated and that extensive searches have been carried out.
“While we continue to hope that Liam will be found we are being realistic about the challenges around finding him.
“We believe that Liam wasn’t feeling himself at the time he went missing and we would encourage any teenager who is feeling overwhelmed to speak to someone about their feelings.”
Divers have scanned the River Dee and helicopter crews were called to search the wider area.
Police said they have had an “overwhelming” response to appeals and have followed hundreds of reported sightings of Liam.
They have now said searches will be scaled back.
Chief inspector Martin Mackay said: “The response from the public to our appeals has been overwhelming and the communities of Crathes and Banchory have been particularly supportive.
“We would like to thank all those who have continued to support us.
“Extensive enquiries and intelligence-led searches have been carried out which has been challenging due to the difficult terrain.
“Reviews of the enquiry have been carried out and will continue as is standard with any long-term missing person investigation.
“At this stage we continue to search but that will be scaled back over the next few days as we conclude the activity at Crathes.
“The investigation will remain open and any new information will be thoroughly reviewed and assessed.
“More than 200 sightings of Liam have been reported to us and every bit of information we have received we have followed up.
“However, our enquiries still suggest Liam would have travelled to the Crathes area and we urge anyone, particularly residents or those who work in this area to remain vigilant and report anything unusual to us.
“We remain in contact with Liam’s family and will keep them updated.”
Liam is described as white, of slim build, with short brown hair.
He walks with a distinctive gait and when last seen he was carrying a camouflage North Face rucksack and was wearing Nike Air Max trainers.
In November, Scotland manager Alex McLeish joined the search for the missing teen, with a video appeal.
He said: “This is an urgent appeal for anybody who knows the whereabouts of Liam Smith.
“Liam, if you’re watching this message, please come home. Your mum, Alix, and your family are very anxious to see you returning.
“Liam went missing on November 17 so anybody who has seen Liam in these days since that date please contact Police Scotland or his family.”