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Massive search for 79-year-old British man missing from Silves home since Friday morning

As our paper edition went to press today, there was still no news of missing British resident John Bainbridge who left his home in Odelouca, Silves, in the early hours of last Friday morning and seems simply to have vanished.

The 79-year-old 6-foot tall, very slim, grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease, and was described as ‘agitated’ the night before he went missing.

He was wearing a black pullover, blue jeans and black trainers with white flecks, and according to the neighbour who initially spotted him, was “almost running in the direction of Portimão”.

The sighting – at around 5.30 am last Friday – is all that his wife Anita, 74, had to go on when she was woken by the neighbour who, knowing of Mr Bainbridge’s illness, thought to alert her.

A frantic search along the road in the dark proved fruitless, and it was after this that friends and neighbours mounted searches of their own.

Safe Communities Portugal – the self-described ‘one-stop-shop’ for crime prevention, providing a link between foreign expats and local police – became involved, and since then liaison with the authorities has been “impressive”, in founder David Thomas’ own words.

“Everyone is really committed to finding this man”, he told us. “The police commander has drafted in agents from Monchique and Portimão, and specialist search and rescue GIPs have been brought in from Lisbon. A lot of effort is going into this”.

Late this morning, Mr Bainbridge’s wife and daughter, Sue, were given an update at Silves police station and learned that aside from the initial sighting on Friday, there have been at least three others – all on the morning John Bainbridge went missing.

The first was on the same stretch of road where the neighbour had seen him, the second was around 8.30 that morning near Serrão, just below Alferce – and the third came a full five hours after he had left his home and seems to suggest he was doubling back, possibly trying to find his way home.

According to Sue, there is the possibility that her father may have hitched a lift, though nothing at this point is certain.

Police have been concentrating their searches in the areas where they know there were sightings, and the effort remains ongoing.

Specially-trained dogs have been on the ground, and the news has also made it into the Portuguese press.

Posters in English and Portuguese (see below for links to download) have been put up in various places, and people are welcome to print some off themselves and put them up in bars and cafés.

“The appeal remains for anyone with any kind of information to come forwards”, said David Thomas.

The day John Bainbridge disappeared saw weather become bitingly cold, and as his wife explained, “he doesn’t have a coat”.

He seems to have left the house through a window (having pulled up a chair to get through it).

Anita Bainbridge explained she had “locked the front door” as she was concerned her husband was ‘wandering around the house in the night, and might open it’.

This story provides some insight into the difficulties people have when a partner develops dementia.

For now, Anita Bainbridge is simply living from “day-to-day”.

Meantime, the weather forecast is predicting yet more cold for the weekend.

For anyone keen to help with this search, the areas thought to be most relevant are those around Serrão, Monchicão, Alferce, Laranjeira and down towards Odelouca.

As David Thomas has explained, “this is an incredibly difficult area to search. There are rivers, hills, undergrowth”.

Walkers, bikers, horse-riders are asked to pay attention to “sheds, derelict buildings, river areas and other places where he could have fallen”.

Numbers to call with any information remain Silves police station: 282 440 290; Anita Bainbridge: 963512870; Safe Communities Portugal: 913045093; Elizabeth Henwood: 930 614 406 or Marie Hindle (for Portuguese): 914102432.

The posters can be found here: For English, http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Missing-John-Bainbridge-Poster-.Update-docx.pdf

For Portuguese, http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Missing-John-Bainbridge-Poster-.In-Portuguese-Update-docx.pdf.

And a last word for searchers: If they see a GNR vehicle or agents in areas where they have been looking, they are asked to “go up and make contact”, so that information can be pooled.

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Previous story, since updated:

With bitterly cold temperatures biting, the search for missing 79-year-old British man John Bainbridge – now in its fifth day – has been stepped up markedly.

Police have been drafted in from Monchique and Portimão to boost the local Silves force, while sniffer dogs from Lisbon and agents attached to the GNR’s special rescue force, GIPS, are now in place on the ground.

Family, friends and neighbours are on tenterhooks, particularly as Mr Bainbridge left his home in Odelouca, Silves, in the early hours of Friday morning without any protection against the elements.

The 6-foot tall (1.83m), “very slim” (63kg), grandfather, with grey hair has Alzheimer’s, and is “almost certain” to be feeling very lost and disoriented, said wife Anita, 74.

“John is not carrying any kind of ID”, she told us on Saturday. “He hasn’t got a phone on him, he has no coat… this is becoming very worrying now, I just ask anyone in the area around Alferce, Laranjeira, Monchique, even Portimão to be on the look-out for him”.

Hospitals have checked their records to see if anyone fitting Mr Bainbridge’s description has been admitted or is waiting in casualty, but as of this morning – almost 100 hours after he climbed out of a window to leave his home as his wife lay sleeping – there have been no sightings, other than that by the neighbour who raised the alarm.

Mr Bainbridge was wearing a black pullover, blue jeans and black trainers with white flecks when the neighbour caught sight of him very early on Friday morning (around 5.30am) “practically running” along the road, in the direction of Portimão, holding a torch.

In the darkness, the neighbour was not even certain it was Mr Bainbridge until he ran to the couple’s house to wake Mrs Bainbridge and find out if her husband was still at home.

Seeing a downstairs window open, with a chair pulled up beneath it, the pair realised what had happened and set off in pursuit – only to discover Mr Bainbridge “must have turned off the road at some point, possibly up to Alferce or Laranjeira”.

UPDATE MONDAY AM:

With extra police having been drafted in, the search is now very intense.

People willing to help are asked to call Silves Police Station on 282 440 290.

We were told by Mr Bainbridge’s wife that focus on Monday was more around the Odelouca dam. Today (Tuesday) search and rescue personnel are scouring local waterways in a kayak.

Safe Communities Portugal is keeping in close touch with both the family and authorities, and considers police response to have been “very positive”.

“This is an incredibly difficult area to search”, said Safe Communities’ David Thomas. “There are rivers, hills, undergrowth. Police are doing a sterling job and I know the commander involved is very much on top of what is happening. His message to me this morning was that agents need as much information as possible. Any sighting, even if it proves unfounded, is worth communicating”.

Various areas close to the couple’s house have already been thoroughly checked, and all walkers, horseriders, bikers, etc are asked to pay attention to “sheds, derelict buildings, river areas and other places where he could have fallen”.

A list of ‘numbers to call’ has been uploaded onto Safe Communities Portugal website They are:

Anita Bainbridge – 963512870; Elizabeth Henwood – 930 614 406, Marie Hindle 91402432 (Portuguese) and Safe Communities Portugal – 913045093.

Anyone who thinks they may have seen Mr Bainbridge at some point over the last five days, or have a clue to his whereabouts, should call 112, Silves GNR on 282 440 290, or go the nearest GNR police station.

Meantime, Safe Communities Portugal has created posters for download in English and Portuguese which it asks people to put up in as many locations as possible.

The posters can be found here: For English, http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Missing-John-Bainbridge-Poster-.Update-docx.pdf

For Portuguese, http://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Missing-John-Bainbridge-Poster-.In-Portuguese-Update-docx.pdf.

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