Remote Hebridean island is combed for missing cadet

Father vows to find son who disappeared early on Boxing Day

A search of the wild landscape of a remote island continued yesterday for a young Merchant Navy cadet who went missing early on Boxing Day. The disappearance of Simon MacMillan, the son of a well-connected local organic fish-farmer, has baffled police and the South Uist community.

Hundreds of people gave up Hogmanay celebrations to travel from neighbouring Hebridean islands to scour the tussocked moorland of this ancient and windswept place. This week, divers from the mainland joined the search teams hoping to exploit the unusually favourable weather to probe the deep lochans that dot the area.

The arrival of reinforcements armed with hi-tech equipment demonstrates the growing sense of despair over the wellbeing of the popular local man. The physically fit 21-year-old set out into the night just 20 minutes from his home in Ardmore as he returned from a Christmas Day dance.

Mr MacMillan's parents and brother are clinging to hope but the student seaman has simply disappeared without trace. "This is the mystery; this is the absolute mystery of Simon's disappearance," said his father, Angus, chairman of the Storas Uibhist, which administers the 92,000-acre former sporting estate on behalf of islanders.

"We can only continue looking and asking for any information that somebody may have, regardless of how small and insignificant to them. There is a gem of information out there that will hopefully help to find Simon. We need people to come forward with that."

Islanders and police are furious at rumours claiming that Mr MacMillan, part of a close and well-established Hebridean family, may have been the victim of foul play or a local feud. Church leaders in this Gaelic-speaking predominantly Catholic community have also denied sectarian tensions could be behind the disappearance.

The cadet had returned to his home island only by chance, after his ship was forced to put in for repairs. But in the early hours of Boxing Day he got out of the minibus in which he was travelling to help a friend suffering the effects of too much alcohol to get home safely. Since then there has not been a sighting or piece of evidence concerning him.

"He knew the area really well," said a family friend. "He was not far from home and he spent a lot of time round that area. Some of the reporting has been very distressing for the family and unhelpful in the search."

The family's local priest Father Michael MacDonald has been saying prayers at St Michael's parish church. "This has cast a terrible pall over things. This is a very small community and everybody knows everybody else. We have people of all different denominations and none out looking for the whole of their holiday. The whole community is behind them."

It is almost exactly four years to the day that the same community was searching for a local family of five that lost their lives crossing a flooded causeway during a ferocious storm. Among the searchers that day was Angus MacMillan and he is adamant he will never give up until he finds his son.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices