Father's fears for missing teenager

IAN MacKINNON

A distraught father made a tearful plea for the safe return of his teenage daughter yesterday after she went missing following a Christmas Eve disco.

Presents for Louise Smith, 18, and her family have lain unopened around the Christmas tree as they have waited anxiously for news of her.

More than 40 detectives and uniformed officers have now joined the hunt searching for clues to her disappearance. She was last seen outside the disco at Yate, near Bristol. They are investigating a possible sighting of Miss Smith soon after leaving Spirals night-club. She was seen being driven by a female friend in her Ford Escort, but neither the car nor the driver have been traced so far.

The latest appeal follows a similar one earlier this week by the father of the missing French teenager Celine Figard, which prompted 400 calls from the public in a separate inquiry.

Robert Smith, 49, made his request for information about Louise yesterday during a brief appearance at a news conference at Avon and Somerset police headquarters. Mr Smith said his wife Gillian, 47, son Richard, 20, and Louise had planned to spend Christmas Day with relatives in Portishead. "Louise has never left home before, which makes it all the more worrying," he said. "There was no reason why she should leave."

Miss Smith, had visited a pub shortly before going to the disco with friends where she spent most of the evening dancing and chatting. She left when the disco ended about 2am, going to a hamburger bar with friends. For some reason she declined to go with them for a taxi. Detective Inspector Chris Farrell, who is leading the inquiry, said: "Louise was devoted to her family. Her disappearance is totally out of character. We are keeping open minds about what may have happened. But the longer she is away the more worrying it becomes."

Concern also grows daily for the safety of Miss Figard, 19, who has not been seen since she accepted a lift from a lorry driver at Chieveley service area, near Newbury, in Berkshire, on Tuesday last week.

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