A full-scale police alert was launched after a father took his son away without telling the boy’s mother from whom he was estranged.
The man, who lives in England, picked up the youngster as he was waiting for the school bus in a Sutherland village.
When his mother learned the boy was not at school, she went into a "panic" and feared the child, who had little contact with his father, had been abducted by a stranger, Tain Sheriff Court was told.
The boy was missing for nearly three hours before being tracked down safe and well to a restaurant in Inverness.
At Tain Sheriff Court today, the father admitted conducting himself in a disorderly manner on January 26.
Procurator fiscal Robert Weir said the child had had little contact with his father aside from telephone calls and limited access during school holidays.
Mr Weir said: "At 8.30am on the day in question the boy was waiting for the school bus. The accused pulled up in his vehicle, and called the child over before driving away. The child went freely."
However, others at the bus stop were concerned and voiced their fears to teachers when the bus arrived at the school.
A man had already phoned the school and said the boy would not be in that day because he had a sore stomach.
Mr Weir continued: "The school contacted the child’s mother who went into a panic and could think of no-one who would be collecting her son. She phoned police and reported him missing.
"It was thought that an arrangement had been made online – that was the immediate concern.
"This was regarded as high risk by police and a full scale missing persons enquiry was launched."
Police checked Inverness airport and car hire firms.
It was discovered that the father had hired a car at an airport and had travelled into the Highlands on January 25.
Officers came to the conclusion that the boy’s father could have been responsible for taking the child away. A mobile phone number was found for him and he was tracked down to MacDonald’s Restaurant, Castle Street, Inverness.
Mr Weir said: "The child was not in distress. They had been shopping and had bought trainers."
Defence agent Alison Foggo said her client was taken into custody in relation to the incident and spent three days behind bars before being granted bail.
She said he had since had no contact with the boy or his mother and the family were no longer living at their previous address.
The lawyer said: "My client does not know where they are and there is no prospect that there could be any repetition of his behaviour. He accepts he has done wrong. He thought it was his right to see the child."
Sheriff Olga Pasportnikov deferred sentence until July 9 for the preparation of Criminal Justice social work reports. She also asked for a restriction of liberty order to be prepared.