Detectives fear missing teenage girl was abducted

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The Independent Online

A man was being questioned last nighton suspicion of abducting a teenage student who went missing while she was walking along a country lane in Devon last Friday.

The 39-year-old man, from Plymouth, was arrested just before 11pm in connection with the disappearance of Alicia Eborne, 18. She has not been seen since she set off on a 10-minute walk from her home in the hamlet of Corntown to the village of Cornwood, near Ivybridge, where she was due to catch a bus.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police added that the teenager was still missing.

Her parents appealed yesterday to their daughter to return home as police spent a second day searching the area where she was last seen.

Concerns for the student's welfare have grown because she has not used her mobile phone since Friday and failed to pick up her wages. She had arranged to meet her friends for a night out on the day she disappeared.

Detectives are increasingly worried that the teenager ­ described as a sensible and reliable woman who lives with her family of Jehovah's Witnesses ­ was abducted while walking along the road. Devon and Cornwall Police said yesterday that, at this stage, they were not linking Ms Eborne's disappearance with three murders at about the same time in north Cornwall, but officers from the cases were co-operating.

The search for the teenager was extended yesterday to an area of moorland eight miles away at Roborough Down and Bickleigh. The entire seven-mile route from Corntown into Plymouth is to be searched in the next few days.

Ms Eborne was last seen by her mother at home at 8.45am last Friday, when she left to catch a bus into Plymouth. She would have had to walk half a mile to catch the 58 or 59 bus.

The teenager's parents, Anthony and Joan Eborne, said in a statement: "We are surprised Alicia has stayed away from home. We know of no reason for her to leave us." To Alicia, they said: "We love and miss you and want to know you're safe.

"None of us are angry with you. We just miss you and are very worried. Please, please contact us so we know you're safe ­ we love you."

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Tilke, the senior officer in charge of the search, reiterated his concern. He said: "There is a total lack of reason for her to go missing and she was very upbeat at the time. It's not in character and we are very concerned. She is described as extremely happy and upbeat that week. She had no reason to go missing."

Detectives said the teenager might have been kidnapped. Friends had tried to call and text her on the day she vanished and called the police because they could not contact her. She was due to go on a night out with friends from Plymouth College of Further Education and had paid for an expensive hair cut and styling the day before her disappearance in preparation.

She failed to turn up at college, where she is studying health and education, or for a part-time job at a restaurant in Plymouth, where she was due to pick up her wages. John Wood, a police spokesman, said: "We are still trying to find out if she got on the bus. We have spoken to the driver but he does not remember whether she was on it or not.

"Alicia had a mobile phone and it has not been active since Friday morning. She is a typical young girl who used her mobile frequently for texting and voice calls, and these stopped [last] Friday. We would expect her to make a call if she was somewhere else.

"She comes from a very stable, happy family and there is no reason why she should have left home. She had no problems at home or at college, where she was doing well.

"She did not have a serious boyfriend but had a number of friends, both male and female, who we are in touch with."