Mother’s anguish over son who went missing from Hjaltland ferry
A distraught mother has described her heartache at waiting for news of her missing son who was last seen on-board a NorthLink ferry more than a week ago.
A large-scale air, land and sea search was launched after Craig Townsley, 22, from Saltcoats, Ayrshire, was reported missing from the Hjaltland on Monday, 9th at about 6.30am.
“I never thought for a moment they weren’t going to find him on the day he went missing,” his mother, Jacqueline said.
“But now it is a week later and there’s no news.”
The 50-year-old, who is also mother to Claire Kerr, 28, and Alan Townsley, 25, was travelling with Craig on the south-bound ferry.
Following four years working abroad with his mum and her partner Mel in the hospitality industry in Spain and Italy, Craig started working in Shetland as a house keeper for an accommodation unit six months ago.
He regularly travelled to and from Saltcoats while working long shifts with 18 days on and off.
He had been making the overnight journey with his mother, who also works on the island in the newly-opened Moorfield Hotel in Brae.
Jacqueline said: “We had a cabin together because the ferry journey was overnight. After having something to eat we went back to the cabin and we were just talking most of the night.
“Then, a bit before 3.30am, he said he was going out for some fresh air and that was it. That was the last I saw him.”
Jacqueline said she dozed off when Craig left and she awoke again at 5.55am to find an empty bed.
She searched the vessel herself before realising her fears that her son was missing and alerting the crew at 6.30am.
Craig was last seen by a member of night security staff, who spotted Craig briefly on deck at about 3.30am, where he was thought to have been sitting on a bench.
The ferry retraced its route along the east coast towards Peterhead before finally docking in Aberdeen just before midday.
A 17 hour search involving lifeboats and helicopters ensued, covering about 200 square miles. The search was stood down at 8.30pm on Monday, however the coastguard continued a coastal search until last Friday.
Now, Jacqueline, her two children and Craig’s father Peter, who lives in Glasgow, are left without any idea of what happened or where Craig is.
“I still pick up the phone and hope,” she said. “We are just looking to find out any news at this stage. Now the best scenario is just to find him. We are all in limbo just waiting for news.”
The family say their wait has been made worse by what they feel is a lack of contact and support from emergency services.
“We have to keep phoning them for updates,” Jacqueline said. “We haven’t experienced anything like this before so we don’t know what to do or what is going on.
“We don’t have a liaison officer or anyone letting us know what is going on.”
More in this week’s Shetland Times.