DUBAI // Relatives and supporters of missing British seaman Timmy MacColl will gather in Portsmouth tomorrow to mark the return to base of the warship he was serving aboard.
The 27-year-old father of two disappeared on May 27 while HMS Westminster was docked in Dubai's Port Rashid.
The group will watch the frigate return home from the Round Tower, a local landmark. They plan to release 77 yellow balloons - one for each day Mr MacColl has been missing.
"The event is to show our support for his shipmates who have also been without Timmy and their families," Neil Cunningham, the uncle of Mr MacColl's wife Rachael, said on the Bring Timmy Home Facebook page.
The ship's company will line up on the upper decks for the Westminster's return, which is due to take place at 12.45pm UAE time. An empty space will be left as a mark of respect for Mr MacColl's family.
Captain Nick Hine, the ship's commanding officer, said: "Clearly we are all desperately disappointed that Leading Seaman MacColl remains missing and our thoughts and prayers remain with his family at this particularly difficult time."
Mr MacColl, from Gosport in Hampshire, was last seen entering a taxi outside the Rock Bottom Cafe at the Regent Palace Hotel in Bur Dubai just after 2am. Friends paid the fare and asked the driver to take him back to the Westminster, but he never arrived there. His wife Rachael, 25, is due to give birth to the couple's third child in October.
The investigation is being led by Dubai Police, but no trace of the missing seaman has been found. An online petition has been launched by Mrs MacColl's grandfather, Jim Cunningham, calling on Britain's House of Commons to "debate the failure of the military and Dubai Police to find Timmy MacColl".
The petition is being hosted by Change.org, a website used by organisations such as Amnesty International and the Humane Society in their campaigns.
Mr Cunningham says on the petition home page: "There has been little communication between the two police forces and the family. The family desperately need to know that all resources have been employed in the search for Timmy, who is a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces."
In a section entitled "Why people are signing", Mr MacColl's mother Sheena says: "I want my son back where he belongs."
The Westminster berthed in Dubai on May 26 and left five days later. She has since passed through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean after completing a six-month tour of duty in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.