Home News Disappearance of British teenager sparks speculation and investigation

Disappearance of British teenager sparks speculation and investigation


When a young British man disappeared while on holiday in Tenerife, Spain, in mid-June, a familiar scene ensued: search and rescue crews scoured the scene, tearful family members kept reporting his disappearance, and unconfirmed reports continued that the man had been found.

Soon after, another increasingly common phenomenon emerged in missing persons cases: Internet detectives convinced they could do what the police had not yet done and solve the case.

Spanish authorities this weekend called off their search for 19-year-old British bricklayer apprentice Jay Slater, who was visiting the popular holiday resort of Tenerife. But even after the 14-day search officially ended, conspiracy theories and other theories continue. Spread on the Internet.

“There is a small minority of people who believe and participate in these things,” said Aleksandra Cichocka, professor of political psychology at the University of Kent. “But they do cause distress to the families and the whole investigation process.”

Slater attended the festival on the island with a friend, according to a statement from his mother, Debbie Duncan, through the missing persons organization LBT Global. On the last night of the festival, Slater left with two people he met at the festival and went to an apartment in a more secluded part of the island, according to Slater’s friend Lucy Law, who provided details on an online fundraising page for Slater’s family.

The next morning, June 17, Ms. Lowe said Mr. Slater told her on the phone that he was lost in the mountains, thirsty and his cell phone was dead. He called another friend and Tell the British news media Mr Slater decided to take shelter on a “little slope” by the road. That morning was the last time anyone heard from him.

Tenerife authorities, with the help of specialist search dogs, have been combing the area around the mountain village of Masca near a nature reserve for nearly two weeks as temperatures on the island off the northwest coast of Africa hovered around 27 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

Spain’s Civil Guard confirmed some details about the case, calling for volunteers with experience in rough terrain before calling off the search and rescue operation over the weekend. British news media reports.

The search unfolded amid a frenzy of attention from the British news media and conspiracy theorists. In Facebook groups, one with more than 600,000 members, observers tracked Mr. Slater’s last known footsteps and scoured livestreams from Tenerife in the hope of finding him. Some — from mountain climbers Influencers arrive Criminal Investigator — went to the island to assist in the search.

“We are aware of conspiracy theories and speculation on social media and some websites, which we can only describe as vile,” Ms Duncan said. “These negative comments have been extremely distressing to our family.”

Ms Duncan, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and some of the teenager’s friends have Reportedly welcome TikTok searchers have provided some help. But the outpouring of attention has also included a lot of unfounded theories and conspiracies, Slater’s family told British news media They worry that online speculation will hinder the investigation.

Administrators of a group that maintains ties with the family have criticised the TikTok and other platforms.

Slater’s employer, PH Build Group, said on Facebook last week that it had received harassing emails: “Everyone may have their own theories and feelings, but to publicly post these views knowing that they will hurt others is cruel.”

Tenerife authorities confirmed in an email on Tuesday that while the official search had ended, the investigation would continue until they determined what happened to Mr Slater.

“We just want to find him,” Ms. Duncan said.

Ms. Sicioka said conspiracy theories can generate a lot of attention and engagement on social media. Sharing conspiracy theories can make people feel like they are creating order amidst chaos, even if they are not actually involved, she said.

“It’s a coping mechanism that helps people deal with a reality that’s difficult to deal with,” Ms. Sijoka said.

In the grand scheme of things, the number of people who create and share these theories is usually small. But because misinformation spreads so quickly, a small number of people can have a huge impact.

Other cases have also sparked intense speculation online. Nicola BulliIn 2023, a 45-year-old woman from Lancashire, England, fell into a river and died. criticize Following her death, theories swirled on social media, even though a coroner’s report showed no third party was involved. Ms Bulley’s family asked the public to “look at the facts and the evidence” and ignore any amateur opinions, adding that people should “be aware of the impact of their words”.

Earlier this month, Greek authorities The body of Dr. Michael Mosley was founda British medical journalist and documentary maker, who authorities said may have died of natural causes. His disappearance prompted Deeper Search Located on the Greek island of Symi.

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