Sad news in The Telegraph

Very bad news this. God grant that he may turn up.

The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 26th August

We won't give up hope, say family of Sandhurst cadet missing in the Alps
By Richard Savill and Colin Randall in Paris

The family of an Army officer cadet who vanished in the French Alps are refusing to abandon hope that he is alive.

They have returned to Britain after scouring riverbanks and quarries in the area where Blake Hartley was last seen.

He disappeared two days after his 25th birthday on the first evening of a training expedition based at the Chamonix ski resort, after spending the evening at a nightclub.

His mother Sally Perrin, 49, an NSPCC schools organiser, and his stepfather, David, 55, a chartered surveyor, spent six days searching rocky terrain with deep, rough vegetation, sometimes in pouring rain.

"We have endless questions but no answers," said Mrs Perrin, at her cottage in the Shropshire hamlet of Hinton.

"Whatever happened is a mystery, one we really need help in solving. I don't give up hope easily and we will not give up until we find something. It is just not Blake to disappear in these circumstances."

Mr Hartley, the expedition leader, became separated from eight fellow cadets as he looked for his campsite in the early hours of Aug 8. Police believe the most likely explanation is that he fell into the L'Arve river and drowned.

His mother said: "I knew that to leave France, not having found him would be the hardest thing in the world to do, and it was. We often put ourselves in danger, especially when we searched the river below the dam, where we had been told not to go. Everyone was so desperate to find something, anything."

She added: "You get that awful feeling sometimes that he is dead. That makes you feel bad. Then you think maybe there is hope. Maybe he is in Barbados or something. We have been through every scenario."

Mr Hartley had completed seven months training at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and was qualified in mountain leadership. He and his colleagues pitched their tents on the Ile de Barrats campsite and went into town for a meal, later visiting a nightclub before returning to the site in twos and threes at 2.30am. Mr Hartley was convinced it was the wrong campsite and went off on his own.

His colleagues reported him missing the next day after an extensive search, Mrs Perrin said. "It is very distressing for them and they have been magnificent."

Mrs Perrin acknowledged that her son "had probably had a few drinks like any young lad" but she added that he had chatted on the way back to the campsite and had been "quite capable" of walking home.

She said: "He may have wandered across the road and into the river, but why? He knew the dangers of it and they were uppermost in his mind. There was no sign of anybody having fallen into the river, no slip marks or disturbed vegetation.

"There is no way he would have deliberately gone into the river or walked away from his life.

"He was never a depressed morose sort of person; he was always happy, and never bore a grudge against anyone however badly or unfairly they treated him.

"He loved life, and took every opportunity he could. He was so loved by so many people and he loved them too. If he had fallen in he stood a very good chance of getting out of the river, he was a very fit strong swimmer, a survivor."

Other theories are that he may have fallen and hit his head, become concussed and wandered off somewhere, or that he may have been hit by a car and knocked into the river, or that he may have been attacked.

Mr Hartley has two sisters Stephanie, 15, and Maria, 27, an ecologist, a stepsister Nina, 27, a wedding organiser, and a stepbrother Alex, 29, a horticulturalist.

Stephanie urged: "Please help me to find my big brother. I am trying to be positive and strong about it. But it is so very hard."

Mr Hartley spent his gap year in Australia teaching outdoor activities at Timbertop school in Australia, which was once attended by the Prince of Wales. He went to Reading University where he graduated in rural resource management.

"Since school he had always wanted to join the Army," his mother said. "We have a picture of him at the age of two in Guards uniform. It was an honour for him to be asked to lead this expedition. He was very excited before he left."

Lt Col Gerard Escolano, from the gendarmerie at Chamonix, said: "We would be delighted if he turned up safe and sound. But we have nothing to suggest that this is the case." He believed Mr Hartley had probably fallen into the river.
The article gives no indication if the police have bothered to search the river with dive teams, or if any extensive effort has been made to discover if he is alive or dead other than hoping he will turn up somewhere. I hope that this is not the case.

There is a lot of room for speculation here, not least about the competence or otherwise of the French police (not renound for giving a toss unless a body or evidence of foul play turns up). Either way I hope he is found safe and well, but after almost 3 weeks the chances are slim.
Hate it when something like this happens..... but it happens all too often.

Hope the lad is OK!! :(
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