Families of missing people gather for ceremony

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The families of Madeline McCann and Lothian pensioner Mary Fearns came together with other relatives suffering the anguish of a missing person for a special West End carol service.

Speaking at St John’s Church on Princes Street, Superintendant Andy McKay spoke of his own family’s heartache.

The national missing person strategic co-ordinator for Police Scotland told the audience: “I am thinking what gives me the right to stand here and talk to you about understanding missing?

“What gives me that right is not because I am a police officer, but it’s because I think that I simply get it.”

Supt McKay spoke of his son Lochlann who had said to him: “You don’t understand Dad, I need to go now.”

“That was the last thing my beautiful 21-year-old son Lochlann said to me before he went missing three years ago,” he said.

The moving speech was part of a service organised by charity Missing People, which aimed to give families a moment together “in solidarity” to remember missing people and was held for the first time in Scotland.

Supt McKay said he was doggedly trying to make “missing” a greater priority across Scotland “on my son’s behalf”.

More than 40,000 missing person reports were made in Scotland last year – an average of about 100 a day – and the charity, reinforced with £4 million of People’s Postcode Lottery funding, offers a vital lifeline to the families affected.

Jo Youle, CEO of Missing People, said: “If we put together all the missing people in Scotland it would fill Glasgow’s O2 three times over. That’s the scale we are talking about. These families are in limbo, they are missing the end of the story. Missing is a dark place and PPL funding allows us to give that vital support.”

John McCann, Madeline McCann’s uncle, said events such as the Missing Person concert also give reassurance to people they are not on their own.

He said: “We are thinking about our missing person all the time. When you are surrounded by other folk with similar stories and a network of people who are willing to keep looking it rekindles that candle of hope.

“Every day we think about Madeline and so far we’ve not had the result we want, but we keep finding reason and strength that we might.”

The missing persons case of Mary Ferns also remains open. She was 88 when last seen heading to Almondvale Shopping Centre, and Ann Liston, Mary’s stepdaughter, spoke last night of the difficulty of not being able to finish the final chapter. “Mary really loved Christmas and being with the family.

“You do get an awful lot of memories of all the good times but we’ve still not had closure and we still don’t know what happened to her. It can be quite upsetting not having her there and not knowing what has happened.”

Operatic quartet G4 opened the service which also featured a performance by Erskine Stewarts Melville School choir.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk