THE sister of an Edinburgh academic who went missing in Switzerland four months ago have told how she has given up hope of his return.
Lorna McInnes, 41, saw her brother Fergus McInnes shortly before he flew to Geneva on September 9 to attend a conference and said he seemed “upbeat”.
He was last seen buying a return ticket for the Alpine town of Martigny. But Mr McInnes, who works at Edinburgh University, failed to attend the conference at Idiap Research Institute in Martigny, check into his hotel or board his return flight to Scotland.
Today, Lorna McInnes said Christmas had been a “strange” time for the family without Fergus who had chosen to spend every festive period at his parents’ home.
And she said she believes her brother is no longer alive.
She said: “When my dad first told me, some time ago, that he had come to the conclusion that Fergus must be dead, I couldn’t agree with him. I was surprised he was giving up so easily. It was only a short time after Fergus had gone missing, and I was of the opinion that he could still come home. That’s what I wanted to believe, and I felt there was a definite possibility that it could happen.
“Now that we’ve been through Christmas and New Year, I feel the same as my dad. I can’t speak for other members of the family, or anyone else who knows Fergus, but I believe that Fergus can no longer be alive.
“I don’t wish to upset or discourage anyone else, because each of us must make up our own minds about the situation, but perhaps to try and explain why my dad and I feel the way we do.”
She added that there had never been a period in her brother’s life where he has remained silent for so long.
But she said the family wanted to find out what happened to Fergus to achieve some closure.
Ms McInnes said: “What we want, indeed what we feel we need in order to carry on with our lives, is some sort of evidence of what happened to him.
“The Swiss police have not been able to trace him in the area where he’s believed to have gone missing.
“It is, as we’ve mentioned before, mountainous and difficult terrain.
“Anyone meeting their end in such country could certainly disappear without trace, and the longer time goes on the less likely it is that any remains would be found.
“It is not pleasant to think of these things, but we have to face them. Life is full of uncertainty, but uncertainty of this magnitude is difficult to live with on a daily basis. Perhaps that’s why my dad and I have come to the same conclusion.”
Mr McInnes, of St Leonard’s Bank, is a former Cambridge maths student and a research fellow at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Speech Technology Research. His past research has included human-computer interfaces, and the evaluation of automated telephone services for BT.
Online Mr McInnes lists his interest and hobbies as croquet, organising walks over the Pentland Hills and further afield and “changing the world”.
He describes himself as a secular humanist, and writes about battling depression.