Mother spends 40,000 pounds trying to trace son

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A British woman has written to thousands of Canadians in a desperate attempt to find her son who disappeared on a back-packing holiday.

Denise Allan, 43, has run up debts of pounds 40,000 visiting Canada and sending 'missing person' postcards to residents of Kelowna, British Columbia, where Charles Horvath, 20, her only child, was last seen three years ago.

The cards, with pictures of Mr Horvath, describe his last-known movements with the appeal: 'Somebody must have seen him, given him a lift, talked to him . . . please help me find my son.' With the help of telephone directories, Mrs Allan is writing to 2,000 people in a nearby town. Cards have also been distributed in Britain and the United States.

Mrs Allan, of Sowerby, West Yorkshire, yesterday described her ordeal as 'a living hell'. She said: 'I am crying inside. I can't say goodbye to Charles. I can't go on anymore. I'm desolate. I'm out of money.' Canadian police are still searching for Mr Horvath. Constable Greg Shaigec, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said: 'We can't say whether he is alive or dead.'

On a visit to Kelowna last March, Mrs Allan received two anonymous letters saying Mr Horvath had been murdered at a party and his body dumped in Lake Okanagan, near the town. Divers found a decomposed body but it was an elderly man who had committed suicide.

Later this month Mrs Allan is to fly to Canada 'for the last time' to meet a man who telephoned her claiming to know who killed her son. Mr Horvath, who had been visiting relatives in Ontario before going trekking, last contacted his parents in May 1989, arranging to meet them in Hong Kong to celebrate his 21st birthday.

His belongings, abandoned at a campsite, were stolen. Only a rosary, leather strap and Bible were recovered. He is described as 6ft tall, slim, with dark brown eyes and hair and a tattoo on his left arm.