Friday 21 September 2018

British man missing in Brazil is 'alive but doesn't want to be found', family claims

Brazilian police say Kenny Mukendi took his own life
Brazilian police say Kenny Mukendi took his own life

Janet Tappin Coelho

The family of a British hip hop artist missing in Brazil have challenged police claims he threw himself into the sea, insisting he is alive but does not want to be found.

Investigators in Rio de Janeiro have called off the search for Kenny Mukendi – also known as Kenny Vulcan – after concluding the 22-year-old took his own life.

But his father Ken said it was too early to give up hope. He said he believes his son is alive but “for whatever reason he doesn't want to be found for now”.

He added that, since no-one saw the aspiring musician jump and given that no body had been found, officers had been premature in making their verdict.

“We are deeply disappointed with the outcome of the Brazilian police’s investigation,” he said.

“They made the press announcement without our consent and we believe they have reached a conclusion based on inaccurate and misleading information.

“We also believe they should have looked more inland and not concentrated their search only on the sea.

“And we believe more research needs to be done into why his bag was found so far away.”

He added: “Until the age of 22, Kenny was the perfect child. He has given us no problems until now. He has never suffered from depression and he never mentioned taking his life."

Mr Mukendi – who had appeared in videos by artists including Nikki Minaj and James Blunt – was from Woolwich, south-east London, but had moved to the Brazilian city to pursue a career in music and acting.

He disappeared on 13 April after telling his girlfriend, Renata Lima, he was heading home from a recording studio.

Ms Lima, a 20-year-old tattoo artist, said: “I spoke to Kenny on WhatsApp on the day he disappeared. He was his usual self, happy and positive. He never ever showed me that he had any suicidal thoughts.”

Police ruled out initial suspicions of a violent crime after the hip hop lover’s backpack – containing a wallet, phone and passport – was found by surfers.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ellen Souto, chief of Rio's missing person's department, said: “We are working on the hypothesis that Kenny threw himself into the sea off rocks at Mirante da Roncador.

“This was after leaving an amateur recording studio, run by friends, where he worked overnight on new tracks.”

She said agents reached their conclusion after quizzing Kenny’s family and friends and undertaking a fruitless seven-day manhunt over air and sea.

“CCTV shows Kenny took an Uber around 1.46pm on Friday from Barra Sul to this location off Prainha beach,” she added. “A bank transaction on his account confirmed the journey. He was last seen by the driver walking down a path that heads to the rocks high above the sea.”

She also drew attention to the fact that his Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook accounts were all deleted the same day.

Searches for the body have now been called off.

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