Missing girl's father helps in murder hunt

MATTHEW BRACE

The father of the missing French teenager Celine Figard arrived in Britain yesterday to assist police as fears for his daughter's safety grew.

Bernard Figard, a farmer, will appeal for help from the public today as detectives launch a full-scale murder hunt for the 19-year-old accountancy student who disappeared on Tuesday last week. Celine's mother was too ill to travel and stayed at the family home in central France.

Detectives, who are now working on the basis that Celine has been murdered, have doubled the number of officers involved to more than 100 across three constabularies. A search of undergrowth around the Berkshire motorway service area where she vanished was set to begin at first light this morning.

Detective Superintendent Des Thomas, leading the investigation, said he was gravely concerned for the student's safety. "Celine's father has given us as much information as possible to build up a full background," he said. "He is suffering anguish and fear for his daughter. We will move heaven and earth to find Celine."

Their daughter had been planning to spend Christmas with her cousin at a hotel in the New Forest, Hampshire, where she worked as a waitress last summer.

She had hitch-hiked from Folkestone in Kent and was offered a lift by an English lorry driver at the Chieveley motorway service station on the M4 near Newbury in Berkshire.

Police said the man who picked her up was driving a white Mercedes lorry towing a light grey 38 to 40-ton Thermo King refrigerated trailer. Nothing has been heard of her since and the driver has not come forward.

Det Supt Thomas said: "It is hard to believe the lorry driver has not heard of our appeals but as yet he has not contacted us. There are some very sinister connotations to read into that but there are no reasons why he shouldn't call us if he dropped her off as he said he would."

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