Tragedy of missing Brits who don’t even figure on ‘missing persons’ listings

Updates this week on two Britons missing in Portugal

Portugal’s most famous missing Briton (if not most famous missing person) is Madeleine Beth McCann – and this week comes the update that the man who German police claimed in 2020 “did the deed” is unlikely to be formally charged until 2024.

Reports suggest that the circumstantial evidence that led Braunschweig criminal prosector Hans Christian Wolters to announce it was clear Madeleine was dead and that Christian Brückner was responsible is now being followed up with interviews throughout Europe to try and make the German police theory stick.

But while updates on Madeleine McCann are never that far from the media pages, updates on other missing Britons are few and far between; others non-existent. 

The PJ list of missing persons doesn’t even mention some of them; in fact doesn’t feature a number of ‘notable missing people’, like two of the men who went missing in Madeira in the past couple of years (Benoit Way and Darren Kay); the Lagos chef (Jon Anderson Edwards/ Balion) who seemingly vanished into thin air in 2014, and the Irish woman who left a hostel in Parede (Cascais) during lockdown and who has also disappeared without trace.

As few stories focus on the number of  ‘missing people who are also missing from the PJ list of missing people’, there are scant explanations for these lapses.

In the case of the Irish woman, Jean Tighe, it has been claimed that ‘she might want to be missing’ – hence why very little publicity seems to have been  given to the incident in the ‘early days’ (in the summer of 2020). It is an attitude that has been publicly lamented by the family who were not even made aware of their loved one’s disappearance until months after Jean walked out of the Help Yourself hostel, leaving behind her passport, clothes, money, keys and one mobile phone

Since then, the family – particularly 38-year-old Jean’s sister Leona – have pushed for a great deal more in the way of active investigation. “ It is clear to us, especially in the context of the time lapse, that Jean’s disappearance has never been fully investigated”, says an emotional post on social media, placed roughly two weeks ago

Leona Tighe has since been actively following up leads herself. With the help of Expresso reporter Micael Pereira she has been in Portugal recently. Eye witness reports, encouraged  by the recent social media campaign, included a possible sighting in Madeira, another in Lisbon. Tragically, both led nowhere, but Leona has stressed she has been buoyed up by the fact that people are, finally, responding to the information about Jean Tighe’s disappearance.

“It means there are people aware and keen to help”, she tells Expresso. “That is what we need, for people to help us find my sister”.

Adding to the puzzle

Adding to the mystery of Jean Tighe’s vanishing is that her own Facebook page has shown “some signs of activity since she disappeared on July 13, 2020”.

Says the latest Expresso story: “An ex-boyfriend, called Klaus, has told police that he tried to call the Irish woman on February 23, 2021 through Facebook Messenger. No one answered, but the notification of this unanswered call was read on Messenger a few weeks later (March 15) by someone with access to Jean’s account.”

In previous stories, Expresso has referred to the mobile phone left behind at the Help Yourself hostel: it was found by a hostel ‘volunteer’, but it was never handed in to police with the rest of Jean’s personal effects. No one seems to know what happened to it. The hotel volunteer has also ‘disappeared from the map’, according to the paper – but whoever has it has accessed messages at various points in 2020 and 2021.

Another twist to the story is the fact that the former boyfriend, Sheu Quitamba, who first reported Jean missing to Portuguese police, has since been found dead in his apartment in Alcabideche (not far from Parede).

His body was discovered on the floor of his kitchen on December 28 last year. “According to a police source there were no signs that he had been the victim of murder”, said Expresso in January. “And although there has still not been an autopsy report, authorities point to probable cause of death being a major heart attack, related to problems with alcohol that he had had for several years”.

There are other ‘loose ends’ – possibly unsurprising considering the lack of interest by authorities to tackle this case in its early days.

“The minimum standard for a missing person’s investigation does not appear to have been followed here, given the significant array of open issues outlined above. We feel that, because of the initial communication issues between authorities, and the subsequent time lapse before the family became aware of the disappearance, Jean’s case was largely ignored in Portugal, and neither Irish nor Portuguese authorities have shown any great appetite to either admit their prior failures or, more importantly, to start anew and launch the investigation which should have been launched in July 2020, with the urgency which any affected family in any country would reasonably expect”, said Leona in her social media posting of last month.

“We need to get the Portuguese police and the Irish authorities to work together and investigate Jean’s disappearance”, she continued; Expresso’s latest report suggests this is at last happening on a Portuguese level.

“In January this year, the public prosecutions office sent a request to Meta (Facebook’s parent company), and to authorities in Ireland”, says the paper.

Meantime, Jean Tighe’s family reinforces the need to keep this investigation alive: “We would like for everyone to keep sharing Jean’s Facebook page because we need to highlight what is not being done within the investigation. At the very least, we hope to ensure that these endemic failures in cross-border judicial communication and cooperation are not revisited on another Irish family in future”.

Jean was a traveller

According to an article in the Irish independent, “Jean was a seasoned traveller and it was not unusual for her to travel solo all over the world. She had suffered from mental health difficulties in the past, Leona said, but she does not believe her sister took her own life”. This belief appears to have been backed up by Leona’s subsequent meeting with the chief of police in Cascais (close to Parede). She told the Independent: “He said 99pc of people who take their own lives by going into the sea, their bodies are recovered. There have been murders in Parede and we have always had fears she went to meet someone, not realising they were dangerous. But we just don’t know”.

[email protected]