x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Vigil held for missing British sailor

Leading Seaman Timmy MacColl has not been seen since leave Rock Bottom Cafe at 2am on Saturday, May 27.

Friends and family gathered in Dubai to speak about Timmy MacColl, a sailor who has been missing for two weeks.
Friends and family gathered in Dubai to speak about Timmy MacColl, a sailor who has been missing for two weeks.

DUBAI // As people flowed in and out of a nearby pub, the sounds of music filling the street, a small group of people stood in silence outside Bur Dubai's Regent Palace Hotel at 2am yesterday.

They had gathered to mark the time Leading Seaman Timmy MacColl, a British Royal Navy sailor, went missing in the emirate two weeks ago.

The 27-year-old, from Scotland, has not been heard from since leaving Rock Bottom Cafe, part of the hotel, at 2am on Sunday, May 27. Witnesses saw him get in a taxi.

The group yesterday, led by Neil Cunningham, the uncle of Leading Seaman MacColl's wife, also exchanged stories about the sailor.

"I was told that Timmy was last seen at 2.10am, which is why we held the silence then," said Mr Cunningham, who flew to Dubai on Friday to support the investigation.

Despite the noisy surroundings, the group stayed silent for several minutes on the busy street.

Afterwards, linking arms, they listened as Mr Cunningham described the sailor as "a great lad, great dad, great nephew and someone who always lit up a room".

"We are here to let Timmy know that he is not alone," he added. "Timmy wants to come home."

Mr Cunningham thanked volunteers for their help, and praised the support that continues to flood in for the official website set up in Leading Seaman MacColl's honour, www.bringtimmyhome.co.uk. "It would be naive to think social networking had not played a part in this," he said, pointing to the volunteers who learnt of the case through Facebook and Twitter.

One expatriate who offered to help was Dave, from the UK. "We are here to show our support for the family," said the former Navy man, who wore a T-shirt bearing Leading Seaman MacColl's picture and details of his last known whereabouts.

Mr Cunningham's visit to Dubai will also give Leading Seaman MacColl's wife, Rachael, a clearer picture of how he spent his time here.

Due to give birth to their third child in October, Mrs MacColl sent a handwritten thank-you letter to the lead investigating officer, that will be delivered by her uncle.

She revealed on the website how the family was coping.

"Tonight is going to be really hard for me as they are holding a midnight vigil, for Timmy, to mark the two-week anniversary of his disappearance. The children are aware of what's happening, and it has hit them hard."

Mrs MacColl also wrote that her husband had probably been wearing a red T-shirt, given to him at the opening of the Ducati Caffè, on the night he went missing.

She told well-wishers online that she was coping as best as she could.

"I am living each day as it comes. Some days I just can't face what is going on and, on the days I can, I'm concentrating on getting answers.

"I have incredible friends and family around me I'm so lucky to have their support."

Although police have no solid leads, the help from officials and from the community has been immeasurable, said Mr Cunningham, who is due to meet police today.

"We are really, really grateful for the support we have received. Family and friends, in the UK ... have been given such belief and hope that Timmy can be found alive and well," he added.

Despite reports that the Scot had been put in a taxi by his fellow sailors, there is a possibility that he got into a cab with two other people, neither of whom have been named.

"I saw him get into a cab with one lady and one man," said a member of hotel security, who has worked there for five years.

After being sent outside by bar staff who thought he had had too much to drink, the sailor was surrounded by friends, said the man.

"About midnight, I tried to send him outside, so his friends came with him. He sat outside the salon next door," he added.

Two hours later, the security man saw Leading Seaman MacColl outside on his own before he got into the taxi. Other witnesses, who asked not to be named, said the man accompanying Leading Seaman MacColl regularly socialises at a nearby pub.

The community continues to help in the search. Taxi drivers have been handing out flyers in Arabic, English and Hindi to customers, while Rock Bottom Cafe staff have handed out flyers and T-shirts.

Sitting on the same steps Leading Seaman MacColl was believed to have rested on two weeks ago, Mr Cunningham said: "Being here around the time Timmy was here ... it is quite emotional. Whatever happens, I just want to bring Timmy home."

zalhassani@thenational.ae