x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hundreds to join search for missing Kerry

Hundreds of volunteers are to join the search for Kerry Winter, who disappeared more than two weeks ago.

Friends and family members at a service in St Mary's Church in Dubai yesterday for Kerry Winter.
Friends and family members at a service in St Mary's Church in Dubai yesterday for Kerry Winter.

DUBAI // Hundreds of volunteers are expected to join a search tomorrow for Kerry Winter, the South African woman who disappeared more than two weeks ago. An estimated 2,500 people have been invited to help in the search, which was organised by Ms Winter's family via the internet and by the community group Volunteer in Dubai. On Aug 20, neighbours witnessed Ms Winter, 35, being beaten with a baseball bat outside her villa in Dubai, then bundled into the back of her car. The events organiser who moved from Johannesburg to Dubai seven years ago has not been seen or heard from since and her car - a silver Ford SUV - was found abandoned on Monday night in the Marina area.

A British national is being held by police in connection with the case. Police have not revealed his name, but a source close to the case said he was Ms Winter's former boyfriend. Lola Lopez, the founder of Volunteer in Dubai, said: "We're trying to get as many people as possible to turn up. It's up to the family where they want to send volunteers to look. Also, we're going to be asking people to walk around the streets and in malls with 'Where's Kerry?' T-shirts as a way of showing support to her family." Well-wishers yesterday attended a vigil, organised by Ms Winter's brother, Kurt, at St Mary's Church. "We'd like the help of all communities in Dubai, such as the Arab, Indian and Pakistani, who may have some information," said Mr Winter, who recently flew in from South Africa to look for his sister with his son-in-law, David Giles. "If anyone can help, we'd be very grateful," he said.

He added: "We'd like to say thanks to St Mary's for allowing us the use of the chapel. "It helps provide a focal point and meeting place for anyone who can help us find Kerry." The family were panicked when police on Tuesday discovered a woman's body near Arabian Ranches, close to where Ms Winter's was last seen. A newspaper incorrectly reported that it was Ms Winter. "We had quite a scare, but the police have assured us it's definitely not Kerry. It was terrifying when I read the story. "We called the chief of police to ask why details were being reported in a newspaper and he told us categorically that it's not Kerry. We were so relieved."

Police said the body was that of a Pakistani woman, but released no further details. A senior Criminal Investigation Department officer yesterday said the man in custody "knows for certain" where Ms Winter can be found. The man, who was arrested at Dubai International Airport after returning from the UK on Aug 25, is being held at Bur Dubai police station. "He is the only suspect in the case, which we are treating as very serious. He knows where she is, that's a certainty," said the officer. Despite pleas from Ms Winter's family to the suspect to reveal more information, including during an emotional face-to-face meeting with Mr Winter and Mr Giles in his jail cell, the family is no closer to finding out the truth behind her disappearance. The suspect has admitted to the assault, but claimed to police that he dropped off Ms Winter at the Arabian Ranches roundabout. Police have teams of detectives working on the case and have deployed sniffer dogs to several areas of Dubai. Ms Winter's family in South Africa - including her mother, 60, who is recovering from a triple bypass heart operation - are anxiously awaiting news of her whereabouts, and have been moved by the level of support shown by people in Dubai, Mr Winter said. "We've been in touch with several people, charities and volunteering organisations, everybody has been so helpful and supportive of what we're trying to do and we're grateful to anyone who wants to spend some time in the search for her," added Mr Winter. The volunteers are meeting on Friday at 9.30am at the top level car park of Mall of the Emirates. For more information on the search, join the Facebook group Help Us Find Kerry. Anyone with information about Ms Winter's disappearance can call Mr Winter on 050 103 5904 or Mr Giles on 050 912 0964. garis@thenational.ae rabubaker@thenational.ae