Around 10pm on the evening of Tuesday, 4th August, I received a phone call from my sister. My 81 year old father, who has dementia, had gone missing from his care home, and his absence had not been noticed for around four hours. The police were looking for him, but he had not been found in the immediate area. I jumped in the car with my wife, and we drove the eighty miles to Manton, Rutland. There then followed nearly forty-eight hours of constant driving, walking paths, telephone calls and growing despair, as we and the large police and search and rescue presence failed to find my father, or any sign of him. The only strong sightings of him had been from shortly after he must have left the care home.
But yesterday, Thursday, 6th August, around 16:45, my father was found. He had managed, apparently on that first evening, to walk 6 kilometres before either falling, or lying down, in a field of oilseed rape, due to be harvested – we were later told – the next day. There he had lain for forty-odd hours, in a spot half a mile down a steep heavily rutted farm track so remote that – although some of us had previously searched part way down the track which led to it – it seemed barely credible he could have been there. He was badly dehydrated, and sunburnt (his disappearance coincided – thanks goodness – with some mild and partially sunny weather, and the nights were not cold) but fortunately, although he seems to have fallen in the field, the crops and his clothing (again thank goodness – he had full clothing on, including a fleece and a few layers of clothing) meant he was only slightly bruised. He is now recovering in hospital. The map above shows the route he took, along a busy main road with no pavement, past an army barracks and down the fateful rutted track.
Early on Wednesday morning, I put out a frantic tweet, followed by a few others, and my first ever Facebook post, to support the social media efforts of Leicestershire Police. The response was extraordinary (I even got replies from Alison Moyet and Caroline Flack!) and I can’t thank people enough for doing this, and equally, my gratitude to those who sent me direct messages of support is unbounded. Shortly after posting these messages all my phone’s data services packed up, so any replies or updates were done by borrowing other people’s devices.
But the people who deserve the most thanks (in addition to my so supportive wife) are those who actually helped to find my father. The fantastic local police of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and the remarkable volunteers of the various Lowland Rescue organisations: I know there were representatives of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire, and if I’ve forgotten anyone, then I apologise and will happily add them [ed. a commenter below tells me there were also rescuers from Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire!]. There was no let-up in the searches, except when deep nighttime militated against it, and the planning and coordination were tremendous. They were positive, compassionate, patient when we were impatient, and totally dedicated to finding my father. He owes his life to them, and we can’t ever thank them enough. Our family is making an appropriate donation to Lowland Rescue, and we would strongly encourage everyone to do so: what happened to us could happen to any family.