Pierre Barnes: Fears for missing British boy on French island
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Monday 29 October 2012
Searches continued tonight for a 12-year-old British boy who disappeared during a bicycle ride in high winds on a tiny French Mediterranean island.
Special tracker dogs, launches, divers and a helicopter joined the search for Pierre Barnes, from Grantham in Lincolnshire, whose bicycle and a shoe were found on Sunday beside a coastal creek on the island of Porquerolles, near Toulon.
Pierre vanished during a bicycle ride in story conditions on Saturday. He had arrived a few hours earlier for a mid-term break with his British father, French mother and his brother and sister.
Eric Mayen, the police chief at Hyères on the French coast nearby, said all leads were being investigated, including the possibility of a criminal act. Searches would continue, he said, until the whole of the island, seven kilometres long by three kilometres wide, had been explored.
Even three days after his disappearance, the possibility existed that the boy could be found alive, Mr Mayen said.
Simon Taylor, British consul in Marseille, said: “The parents have not given up hope but it’s very difficult for them.”
In an interview with local French television on Sunday, Pierre’s father, Stephen Barnes, 57, said: “I am certain he went off on an adventure on his bicycle but in the forest all the little tracks look the same.”
“He is lost but he is a strong boy and I hope he found a place to sleep where there was not too much wind. It's difficult to say what you can do when you are cold and frightened.”
Three emergency service launches with divers aboard were searching the rocky coasts of the island tonight. A navy helicopter flew overhead. Soldiers, police and local volunteers searched on land, helped by dog teams.
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