Police 'in the dark' over missing girl

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The Independent Online

Detectives searching for the missing 13-year-old schoolgirl Amanda Dowler admitted yesterday that they were "in the dark" over her disappearance.

As the search entered its fifth day, police said they had no idea of what had happened to her despite receiving hundreds of phone calls from the public.

The officer leading the investigation, Supt Alan Sharp, said it would be astonishing if she had been abducted as she walked along a busy road on her way home and nobody had seen anything. He refused to rule out a premeditated kidnapping.

He said officers had not ruled out the possibility that she had run away or disappeared with a boyfriend who was not known to family or friends. However, examination of her diaries gave no hint of a secret life. Mr Sharp said: "We're still hopeful that we may find Amanda but with each day that passes, it becomes more difficult and frustrating."

Yesterday police and fire crews searched the roof of Walton-on-Thames train station in Surrey where she was last seen on Thursday afternoon before walking home. A pond, a few hundred yards away was also being dredged for any sign of the girl, her bag or mobile telephone.

No trace of the teenager has been found despite searches involving more than 100 officers and members of the public, who have scoured wasteland, waterways and a rubbish tip. Police have urged local businesses to hand over any closed-circuit television footage that might give any clue to her disappearance.

"It's still possible that Amanda has taken it into her own hands to disappear. She may have calculated this," Mr Sharp said. "Again I appeal to her to come forward and contact the police and her mother and father.

"At this moment in time we are extremely frustrated. The searches go on but without any further information about her whereabouts on Thursday afternoon, we're in the dark."

Detectives have interviewed all the friends who were with Amanda when she left the railway station, and were speaking to other schoolfriends and relatives.

Amanda's parents, Robert Dowler, 50, an IT consultant and his wife, Sally, 42, a teacher, as well as her 16-year old sister, Gemma, were said to be bearing up well. "They're hoping and praying for her return," Mr Sharp said.

A reconstruction of the minutes leading to her disappearance was has been filmed for the BBC's Crimewatch programme tomorrow.