Concern grows for missing academic

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The Independent Online

Police searching for a female professor who was last seen leaving a university library on Thursday have described her disappearance as "very worrying".

Professor Maria Agofonova, 49, was visiting England from her home in Slovakia for a two-month language course and had been in the country for only a week when she vanished. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said she was seen at 4.30pm on Thursday afternoon as she left the library at Reading University.

She had not made contact since with her host family and her passport, return ticket to Slovakia and pictures of her children were still at their home. "She has very little money, speaks almost no English and knows no one in Reading," the spokesman said.

Professor Agofonova, who is married with a 26-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter, is about 5ft 2in and has blue eyes and deep red hair. When she vanished she was carrying a black rucksack and wearing a long black skirt, pink and orange blouse, and a dark jacket.

Professor Agofonova, who works at the University of Kosice in Slovakia and whose subjects include ethics, physics and sociology, was staying with Peter and Maria Wilford in Earley, near Reading.

She had obtained a scholarship to study at Oxford Univers-ity next summer and had been on a fast-track course to learn English at the Greyfriars Language School in Reading, Mrs Wilford said. "She was so excited about being here and so eager to learn. She loved her language course and I cannot think of a reason why she would have voluntarily disappeared."