Monday 19 February 2018

Parents' anguish as search for missing daughter continues

Marian and John Buckley
Marian and John Buckley
Karen buckley
Police officers in Dawsholm Park in Glasgow where the handbag which police believe belongs to missing student Karen Buckley was found early this afternoon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 14, 2015. A search was launched for Karen , 24, after she was seen on CCTV footage in the early hours of Sunday morning talking to a man outside the Sanctuary in Dumbarton Road, Glasgow. See PA story POLICE Missing. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
A police officer searches the undergrowth in Dawsholm Park in Glasgow
Dawsholm Park
Police search a house on Dorchester avenue Glasgow that missing Irish student Karen Buckley may have gone after leaving the Sanctuary nightclub on Dumbarton Road, Glagow.
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

Caught in an explosion of camera flashes, Marian Buckley inhaled deeply and steeled herself for the task ahead.

She knew the words by heart.

"We just want Karen home safely. We are desperate. She is our only daughter. We love her dearly.

"If anybody has any information please come forward. We would dearly appreciate it. Thank you."

Countless times have families of missing people reluctantly stepped into the glare of the media spotlight in a bid to trace their loved one.

A worried mother or father puts a human face on the family's unspeakable suffering, helps jog people's memories and, it is hoped, prompt someone to come forward to police with even the tiniest of leads.

As the hours slowly tick by with still no sign of Karen, Marian Buckley must be praying her words at a Glasgow press conference will help.

The worry and strain was etched clearly on her face as she appealed for the safe return home of her only daughter.

She and her husband John are living every parent's worst nightmare, eking out an existence as they wait for news.

However when that news comes, it only serves to heighten their anxiety.

Yesterday afternoon handbag - the same one she had when she left the Sanctuary nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning - was found dumped in a city park.

After three interminable days of worrying and waiting, the Buckleys are now desperate for answers.

How many times do parents lie awake waiting to hear the comforting bang of the frontdoor, knowing their young son or daughter is safely home from a night out, before they can drift off to sleep?

By all accounts Karen is not someone who would vanish into thin air.

At 24-years-old, she is a seasoned traveller having spent time in the US, South Africa, Thailand and a year working at a hospital in Essex. Those who know her say she is well aware of how to take care of herself.

Like all young women, she was drilled in how to stay safe on a night out. She knows to stay in contact with her friends and let them know where she is, who she's with.

It is precisely this level-headedness that makes her disappearance in the early hours of Sunday morning so disturbing.

"Karen is a sensible girl. She always keeps in contact with her family and friends to let them know where she is and what she is up to," said her parents.

"To not return to her flat or be in contact with her pals - not responding to texts and calls to her mobile is very, very worrying as it is so out of character."

Her social media accounts have also shown no activity. Her Facebook account is peppered with photos of a beaming Karen enjoying nights out with her girlfriends.

Despite moving to Glasgow only in January to study, she had already gathered around her a wide circle of friends. As with all students, Saturday nights are a time to let their hair down and hit the town.

Last Saturday Karen and her three flatmates had a few drinks at home before hitting a nightclub, arriving fashionably late at just before midnight.

Just over an hour later, she told her friends she was going to the bathroom but never returned. Growing increasingly worried as the hours passed with no sign of their friend, they reported her missing to police.

From the outset, Scottish Police have treated her disappearance with a heightened degree of urgency.

Her last known movements were circulated to the media with a detailed description of her appearance - from her long, black curly hair that had extensions in to her black jump-suit and red high heels.

They stressed that while Karen had had a few drinks, she was not drunk, and that her disappearance without a phonecall was completely out of character.

Then CCTV footage emerged of her talking to man outside the nightclub. Police later traced this man and he said he drove her to his flat where they were "intimate" consensually. He says she then left around 4am to head home.

Detective Superintendent Jim Kerr, who is leading the search for Karen, said this man is assisting police with their enquiries but is not currently being treated as a suspect.

"From what we can see she does not appear under duress - there is no sign of struggle or reluctance on her part to leave the club," he said, adding that does not mean that nothing untoward happened to her at a later stage.

Officially the case is still being treated as a missing person enquiry - albeit a high risk one. However Det Supt Kerr admitted police are gravely concerned that Karen has met some harm.

"Whether that is due to foul play / criminality or she has taken unwell or had an accident is obviously still to be established," he added.

As he sat beside his wife at yesterday's press conference, John Buckley looked shell-shocked and shook his head in disbelief.

"If anyone is holding Karen or anybody knows anything of her, please return her to us, please give her back. We love her to bits," he said.

Det Supt Kerr then squeezed Marian's hand, the signal they could leave, and the Buckleys picked their way through the crowd, their nightmare far from over.

Irish Independent

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