The public has been urged to put pressure on government ministers to help solve the mystery of Jamie Taggart’s disappearance in Vietnam.
The botanist from Linn Gardens in Cove on the Rosneath Peninsula has been missing since November, and this week his father attacked the response by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Dr Jim Taggart believes local police in the Sapa area are withholding information about the 42 year-old volunteer firefighter, who was on a plant-hunting expedition in the mountainous Hoang Lien national park.
“We have someone missing for four months, known to be missing the day he did not return to the hostel – they had his passport, they knew who he was and they knew he was a missing person, and they did nothing,” he said.
“I don’t know what happened but I suspect the police may know more than they are letting on. Apparently people do disappear in that part of the world.
“There is just no evidence of what happened. The police obviously told no-one, though they had his passport. That would be a big concern for anyone visitjng there.”
Dr Taggart said it was ‘improbable but not impossible’ that Jamie was still alive, and the family needed to know what had happened.
“It should be a matter of public interest,” he said, describing the FCO failure to act as ‘embarrassing’ as it had taken several weeks for them to put posters up in the area, and local press had not carried the story.
“Nothing was publicised at all, we have been in touch with several people in Sapa and they did not know about anyone being missing,” he said.
“They say it is a place they recommend as entirely safe for British citizens.
“The Foreign Office should come clean as to what they know or don’t know. The first thing they should do is interrogate the police.”
Thousands of pounds has been raised to help the search for Jamie and teams have combed the remote area in vain.
Dr Taggart said national park director Luong Van Hao had been ‘amazed’ no trace had been found.
“Mr Hao said ‘We will find him, because he could only go so far in that country in a day’,” he said.
“There is no sign of a body – it is very hard for a body to disappear absolutely without trace.”
An FCO spokesperson said this week: “We have been providing consular assistance to James’ family since we were made aware of his disappearance, which includes providing them with all information that has been passed to us by the Vietnamese authorities in relation to James’s case.
“We will continue to provide consular support to the family and to liaise with the Vietnamese authorities.
“We keep our travel advice under constant review and the safety of British nationals is our primary concern.”
But an email sent to Dr Taggart blamed the delay in the embassy being informed on ‘local Vietnamese procedures’.
Dr Taggart has asked the public to contact key politicians. asking for the FCO to take action and more pressure to be put on the authorities in Vietnam.
Local MP Alan Reid can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post at 95 Alexandra Parade, Dunoon, Argyll, PA23 8AL
To contact Foreign Secretary William Hague email email@example.com, write to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH or use Twitter – @WilliamJHague
FCO Minister of State Baroness Warsi can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, contacted via Twitter at @SayeedaWarsi or by post: The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
The email from Kevin Steers, consular desk officer for that reason, is repeated verbatim below, with the permission of Dr Taggart:
Apologises for not replying to your email sooner as I have been away from the office.
It continues to be our hope that some evidence as to where James went to or is located will be found. Can I ask if the search parties that were being organised on your behalf by Mr Hao at the forestry commission in Sapa have now been concluded; as I recall when we last spoke they had been suspend due to the change in weather conditions.
With regards to the time delay by the local authorities in notifying the British Embassy in Hanoi about the disappearance of James. I am afraid the reason for the delay is mainly connected to local Vietnamese procedures. From my colleagues discussions with the Sapa local authorities it appears that it is seen by the Vietnamese as a common occurrence for foreign nationals to leave personal effects in their hotel room for sometimes days or weeks at a time, hence when James did not return to the guest house after a few days the owners did not become concerned. Once it was clear that James had still not returned to the guest house after a significant period of time the owners of the guest house informed the local police.
The local police conducted an search of the immediate area and located the motorcycle taxi driver who took James up into the Sapa mountain area. Once no other evidence of James’s location could be found the local police as is procedure in Vietnam, contacted the districts provincial government who in turn notified the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MFA]. Once the MFA notified the British Embassy in Hanoi on the 29 November 2013, the Embassy immediately contacted the local authorities in the Sapa mountain area to request that they continue the search for James and to expand the search area where they have been looking. At the same time we conducted a search for contact details for James’s parents and contact was made with you on the 2 December 2013.
Whilst we sympathise that the James’s disappearance and continued lack of evidence as to his location is very difficult for you, his family. There is at this time no evidence to indicate that any other British nationals would face a similar circumstance by visiting the Sapa mountain area. Please be assured that the FCO’s travel advice for Vietnam is regularly monitored and updated once the British Embassy in Hanoi becomes aware of any circumstances in a particular part of Vietnam which would require the FCO to advise British nationals not to travel to that area.