Father of missing nurse appeals to fiance's family

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The Independent Online

The father of a missing student nurse pleaded with her fiancé's family yesterday to provide any further clues to her last movements after a fruitless 16-day search.

Phil Kerton, 56, has travelled to Germany where Louise, his 24-year-old daughter, disappeared on 30 July. He spoke of his fear that the "reluctance" of the family of Peter Simon, her fiancé, to deal with the investigating authorities was hampering efforts to trace Ms Kerton.

He was speaking after the disclosure that Michael Simon, the schizophrenic older brother of Ms Kerton's fiancé, had been tried and acquitted of the murder of a pensioner in Broadstairs, Kent, eight years ago. The ordeal, during which Michael Simon was held at a high-security prison and his family was ordered out of its Broadstairs home for a police search, is said to have left the family suspicious of authority.

Kent police, who have been working with colleagues in Germany, said yesterday that they were aware of Michael Simon's history but had no reason to believe he was connected with the disappearance.

The development is the latest perplexing twist in Ms Kerton's disappearance. She vanished while travelling from Aachen railway station in north-east Germany via the Belgian port of Ostende to the home she shared in Broadstairs with her fiancé, a care worker aged 28. He had been waiting at Dover's Hoverspeed terminal to meet her.

Ms Kerton, who suffers from dyslexia, had been staying with the Simons, who had moved abroad to start a new life, in the town of Euskirchen, near Aachen. The last person to see her alive was her fiancé's mother, Ramana Simon, who left the student at the railway station.

Mr Kerton, in Euskirchen, said he feared confusion over her final movements was hampering the search.

He said: "They [the Simon family] are reluctant to co-operate with anyone in authority, whether police, teachers or lawyers. Michael's background is the origin of it and it's making it very difficult in our search for Louise."

The Kerton family distributed leaflets yesterday around Aachen. Police there have spoken with Mrs Simon about the student's disappearance, and say they are aware of her elder son's condition but had no plans to interview him.

Michael Simon, now 42, who lived next door to Peter and Louise in Broadstairs until six months ago, was arrested in February 1993 after 79-year-old Josephine Bridges was bludgeoned to death with a champagne bottle on the seafront.

The fingerprints of the introverted bachelor were found on the bottle but a jury at Maidstone Crown Court acquitted him of the killing after hearing how he would often pick up bright objects and put them down again. He also differed considerably from an eyewitness's description of the killer.

Shortly after the verdict, Mrs Simon, who is a nurse, said she was planning to sue Kent Constabulary for compensation. The force said yesterday that it never received any claim.

The search for Ms Kerton, a former classmate of Lucie Blackman, the former British Airways stewardess who was murdered in Japan, has been frustrated by a lack of CCTV cameras at Aachen station.

Kent police said officers would make routine inquiries, but it was now a matter for the German authorities. A spokesman said: "We are aware of Michael Simon's history but have no reason to believe it is connected to Ms Kerton's disappearance.

"We are now satisfied that she travelled to Germany for a holiday and subsequently disappeared. We will continue to liaise with the family and police abroad but it is now a matter for the German police."

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