Case of missing Fergus McInnes unsolved a year on

Academic Fergus McInnes is still missing after boarding a flight to Switzerland. Picture: Contributed
Academic Fergus McInnes is still missing after boarding a flight to Switzerland. Picture: Contributed
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THE heartbroken sister of an Edinburgh University academic who disappeared a year ago today has told of her fear that she may never find out what happened to him.

Fergus McInnes, 51, from St Leonard’s Bank, was last seen at Geneva airport on September 9, 2014 after flying out to attend a conference.

We long for an answer to the question of what happened to him that day

LORNA MCINNES

The academic was spotted on CCTV buying a return train ticket to the Alpine town of Martigny, 50 miles to the west of Geneva.

But he did not check into his hotel, appear at the conference or board his return flight to Scotland.

His family suspects the keen hillwalker met with an accident in the Alps, although no trace of him has ever been found and relatives are no closer to finding out what happened to him.

Sister Lorna said they had struggled to cope with the uncertainty surrounding his disappearance.

She said: “Although we have our own theories about what happened to Fergus, we still have no material proof to back them up.

“We long for an answer to the question of what happened to him that day. We don’t know for sure where he went, although we have reason to believe that he walked along the road from Martigny to Salvan.

“At some point that afternoon he disappeared from view, but no trace has been found of him or his belongings, despite several searches in the area.

“As has been noted before, the area is mountainous and accidents are not uncommon in such terrain.

“What makes it difficult for us is that we don’t know if he had an accident and came to grief in the mountains.

“We believe that to be the case, but without evidence there will always be an element of doubt.

“That doubt is something we may have to live with for a long time.”

Mr McInnes is a former Cambridge maths student and a research fellow at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Speech Technology Research.

He had battled with depression but had not sought treatment since 2010, and his family described him as “upbeat” in the days before his disappearance.

His father, Bennet McInnes, of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, said: “We miss him more than we can say, and we would have been delighted if he had been found alive and well.

“Other members of the family still have some hope for that outcome, but I am now even more convinced than I was before that he must have suffered a fatal accident in the Swiss mountains in September 2014.

“Over the past year we have been doing our best to look after his flat and his finances, but acting on his behalf with no power of attorney and with no death certificate has been challenging.

“If his body is not found, there cannot be a presumption of death until seven years after he was last seen alive and well.”

Meanwhile, Lorna said she remained hopeful that evidence of what happened to her brother may yet come to light.

She added: “After so long it’s hard to imagine how we’ll get answers to the questions we’ve been asking all this time, but it’s still possible that if he did die in the mountains, some proof of that might be found in the future.”