Sir Peter Lampl, the millionaire philanthropist who sparked a police search after going missing on Sunday, was found yesterday, sitting on a bench at Victoria train station in London.
The 61-year-old founder of the Sutton Trust, an education charity which campaigns against social inequality, walked out of his £1.8m home in Wimbledon wearing just a sweater and casual trousers on Sunday morning.
His disappearance was described by police as “entirely out of character” and worried friends and family told officers that he was suffering from depression following the break-up of his marriage and had left home without his medication.
But yesterday he was found after a member of the public, reading about his disappearance in a newspaper, spotted Sir Peter at Victoria station. She showed him the article and urged him to contact his family.
It is understood that he immediately called his personal assistant at the trust, who alerted the police and his family. Tim Devlin, a spokesman for the Sutton Trust, said: “We would like to say we are very relieved to hear that he is safe and well, thanks to the publicity caused by his disappearance. I would like to thank the police for putting out a missing persons statement and the media for their concern.
“He was at Victoria train station at midday yesterday and I think he was having a cup of coffee. A woman at a table two tables away was reading a newspaper article about him and showed him the story and said, ‘I think you should ring people’.
“He then rang his office and said, ‘It’s Peter Lampl’. They called the police, who collected him.”
Sir Peter had reportedly been suffering from depression as a result of the break-up of his marriage to his wife, Lady Karen Lampl, last year. He has been staying at the home of his parents and sister in Wimbledon while trying to recover.
Last night he was back with them – although his whereabouts in the 48 hours that he was missing still remained a mystery. “He will need a few days or maybe a few weeks to recover,” said Mr Devlin.
Since October, Sir Peter has taken a back seat with the Sutton Trust which, among other things, has set up summer schools at prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in an attempt to give youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds a taste of higher education to convince them they should apply for places.
Friends said last night that Sir Peter was in a “confused” state when he was found yesterday lunchtime – more than 48 hours after he had last been seen at his Wimbledon home. “He has been down for some time and he has been depressed,” said a source.
Sir Peter is also understood to have lost money as a result of the recession, but it was stressed that his depression was “nothing to do with the credit crunch”.
A friend of the family, Glyn Morris, said they were delighted Sir Peter had been found safe. He said: “I think it’s publicity that helped to find him. He did not leave in a coherent fashion, which is a function of the medicine he is taking. I presume he’s being cared for – having been on the streets for two nights, I don’t know what state he is in.”
Sir Peter is widely respected in the education world. One of his most significant interventions to help pupils from poor backgrounds was to agree to fund all the places at the Belvedere High School for Girls in Liverpool for those pupils whose parents could not afford the fee.
But last year he agreed to the school joining the state sector as one of the Government’s flagship academies – as a result of which it had to end all forms of selection. Last month it became the top performing non-selective state school in the country.