Police urged to scour resort as mystery of missing skier deepens

Foul play feared as family applies to Swiss courts for order permitting house-to-house searches
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The Independent Online

Shortly before he left for the Swiss Alpine village of Wengen 10 days ago, Myles Robinson was in an ebullient mood. He was due to start a hard-won job in the new year and about to visit his family's chosen winter holiday destination for the last 15 years. On his Facebook page, he wrote: "I am leaving to go skiing. Merry Christmas."

Today, the 23-year-old Briton's parents and sister mark an unhappy milestone since what should have been a happy break turned into a missing person hunt with increasingly sinister overtones of foul play. A week ago exactly, Mr Robinson, a fit and healthy young man, vanished on a clear night while walking 300 yards to his family's rented flat.

The disappearance of the maths and economics graduate in the early hours of 22 December after seeing a friend to her hotel sparked a massive search in the tiny and remote village of 1,300 inhabitants, involving a Swiss army helicopter fitted with heat-seeking equipment, dozens of police and a blood hound. Every day since, a small army of villagers and holidaymakers has joined the Robinsons' efforts to pin up hundreds of posters and scour Wengen along with its spectacular but rugged surroundings at the foot of the Eiger mountain.

But as time passes without the discovery of a body or any evidence that the sports-mad former pupil at the public school Charterhouse ever left Wengen, there is increasing concern that the disappearance is not the result of a tragic misadventure after an evening drinking with friends in a ski resort bar, but of a crime.

Mr Robinson's sister, Cara, 25, yesterday called for Swiss police, who are treating the case as a missing person hunt, to upgrade their investigation. Referring to her brother, she said: "This is 100 per cent out of character. Without a doubt, something strange has gone on."

His mother, Sarah, 59, who is a senior figure in British skiing administration, added: "My son does not care for hiking or spontaneous craziness. He always at least sends a text message if he changes his short-term plans. We are convinced that there is a crime." The Independent understands that the Robinson family, from Wandsworth, south London, yesterday applied to a Swiss judge to issue an order which would allow police to raise the level of the alert and to search homes in the village – a move prohibited by Swiss privacy laws which prevent detectives from entering premises without suspicion of a crime.

Mr Robinson's father, Michael, 59, who runs a golf tourism company, said: "The police here in Switzerland cannot search homes without a warrant and a warrant can only be granted if there is evidence of a crime. A missing person does not constitute a crime. We have lodged an appeal through a local lawyer for a judge to issue a higher alert proclamation to involve more police."

In the meantime, the family were yesterday carrying out door-to-door searches of Wengen, asking residents for permission to look inside their homes and compiling a list of unsearched premises.

Among the scenarios that the family want police to pursue is the possibility that Myles had been abducted or is somehow being held against his will in Wengen, which is perched high above a valley and can only be reached in winter via a railway line. It is understood that there has been no attempt to use his bank cards since his disappearance, which took place at 2.19am. The last train leaves Wengen each night at midnight.

Swiss police yesterday declined to say whether they were linking the disappearance of the Briton with the case of Daniel Baptista, a Swiss national who vanished in Wengen in November 2006 and has not been seen since. The 21-year-old from the nearby Swiss capital, Bern, was attending a party in the village and had taken the hallucinatory drug mescaline.

By any standards, the disappearance of Mr Robinson, a 6ft 5in footballer and golfer, is baffling.

Security camera footage showed the Briton, who graduated from Newcastle University this summer and had been due to start work next week with a financial services company in west London after getting through five rounds of interviews, leaving the Blue Monkey bar in Wengen dressed in jeans and a black coat given to him last month by his girlfriend, Sophie Harral. Ms Harral, 21, had been due to fly out to join the Robinson family for New Year but has cancelled the trip and is said to be "devastated" by Myles's disappearance.

Cara, who had accompanied her brother to the bar, one of several watering holes popular with British and Irish visitors in Wengen, and other witnesses have insisted that Mr Robinson was in "good spirits" and was not drunk. He left the bar to accompany a family friend back to her hotel before walking off along the Dorfstrasse, the village's main street, towards the Hotel Eiger, where the Robinson family were staying.

His mobile phone signal was picked up at 5am in the south of the village but the device has since been switched off or run out of battery.

A spokesman for the Swiss police said last night: "We have no evidence that a crime has been committed in relation to Mr Robinson's disappearance. We are pursuing all information to try to locate him as soon as possible."

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