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Daily Record
Daily Record
Norman Silvester

Distraught daughter recruits search and rescue experts to find dad who disappeared near Scots loch last May

A distraught daughter has called in search and rescue experts in a desperate bid to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. Retired nurse Neil Skinner, 71, went missing while holidaying with two friends near remote Loch Dochard, Bridge of Orchy, in Argyll and Bute in May last year.

Despite an extensive police investigation using sniffer dogs, drones, helicopters and diving teams, the dad of four has never been found. Neil, from Doncaster in Yorkshire, had left his wallet, phone, clothes, rucksack and specialist walking poles and had already begun preparing his breakfast.

Daughter Kate Armitage, 44, has now asked members of the specialist volunteer Beneath the Surface team to try and find him. They have agreed to co-ordinate a new ground search in the last weekend of May to mark the anniversary of Neil’s disappearance, involving mountain rescue experts and experienced hillwalkers.

Beneath the Surface were used last year by the family of joiner Kevin McGuire, 27, who went missing from Stronachlachar, Stirlingshire, in 1994 after a New Year’s Eve row with his wife. The outfit, based in Chorley, Lancashire, deployed the latest in sonar equipment to search nearby lochs but were unable to find him.

They have been successful in recently locating the bodies of two missing persons in Workington, Cumbria. Police Scotland have told the family that they cannot understand why they cannot find his body.

Neil Skinner. (Supplied)

Kate, who lives in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said she has given up hope of finding her dad alive. But she would like to recover his body so she can finally lay him to rest. She added: “The police have told me they have never come across a case like this before and are shocked that they haven’t been able to find him by now

“I am very grateful that Beneath the Surface have offered their services. It is torture not knowing what has happened to dad. All we want to do is find his body and give him a decent funeral.”

Kate Armitage with husband Nick and son Oscar. (Glenn Ashley)

Neil’s family held a memorial service last August in Chesterfield where they planted a memorial tree. Kate also hopes to leave a plaque on the shores of Loch Dochard. On May 7, Neil and his friends had parked their car at Victoria Bridge, nearby Tyndrum before hiking six miles to Loch Dochard, where they camped for the night.

The next day, they set off for Loch Etive but about 90 minutes later, Neil suddenly turned back for the campsite because the hike was too much for him. His friends returned to Loch Dochard on May 9 but there was no sign of him. The last sighting of Neil was on May 8 at about 2pm at the campsite, by a walker.

Phil Jones, of Beneath the Surface, said: “We will spend the weekend searching and are asking the hiking an hillwalking community to help us. Hopefully we can finally bring closure and provide answers to Neil’s family.”

Divorcee Neil was an experienced walker and camper and had visited the area before. However, he had got lost the previous June whole on a holiday in Skye with the same two friends after a mist descended. A mountain rescue team found him six hours later.

Kate, who works for an engineering firm, said her son Oscar had taken his grandfather’s disappearance badly. She added: “How do you explain to a seven-year-old that his grandfather is missing?”

Inspector Lee Page of Police Scotland yesterday appealed to anyone with information on Neil Skinner’s whereabouts to come forward. She said: “Any new information received will be investigated fully.”

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