Family's search for Alex

THE father of a paraglider who went missing in the Himalayas has offered his sympathy to a woman desperately searching for her brother who is missing in Nepal.

THE father of a paraglider who went missing in the Himalayas has offered his sympathy to a woman desperately searching for her brother who is missing in Nepal.

Alex Ratnasothy, 24, last contacted his family from Kathmandu by e-mail on February 21, he said he was to get in touch with them again from the base camp of Mount Everest.

But there has been no correspondence since then, and now his sister Anna, 28, a paediatrician at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford is in Nepal looking for clues to the whereabouts of her younger brother.

The family has set up a website as they try to find what has happened to the young traveller who had spent time in South East Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Burma. Alex who has a degree in computer science, has been travelling as a backpacker since April 17, 2002.

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The desperate wish of Dr Ratnasothy to find her brother has brought back painful memories for Bill Kitchen whose son Joel was last seen as he set off on a paragliding journey in northern India in April 2002.

Despite extensive searches for Joel, who was 25 when he went missing, which involved the Indian air force and the hire of a commercial helicopter, his family found no trace if him.

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Mr Kitchen, 53, wished Dr Ratnasothy well in her search which started in July.

He said: "I can empathise very strongly with the situation, Joel travelled for several weeks in Nepal and in fact he nearly died in one of the large rivers there, which was a close call.

"For anybody who travels in foreign lands there are risks involved, but I would say for her not to give up. Anybody involved in a search like that needs to remain buoyant and upbeat.

"We have still not had any news and for us personally, we keep trying to close the situation in our hearts.

"For us, and any parents who have lost a loved one, it probably makes it easier to bear if one gets news about what happened, if one finds a body or some clues."

Mr Kitchen, who is a teacher at Brightlingsea Junior School, said a family which did not have the vital answers could be left in a position that was "between hope and despair".

He added: "I wish her the best of luck and hope she will interview as many people as possible to try and follow in his footsteps."

After Joel's disappearance Mr Kitchen and his wife Angie flew to India and stood by the spot in Eirin the Himachal Pradesh area of where he had taken off. They also found an unsent postcard Joel had written, which described what a wonderful time he was having.

Like the search for Joel, Dr Ratnasothy has had few clues in her efforts, but said she had not given up hope of finding her brother who is a computer technician from Grays in south Essex.

She said she plans to come back for Christmas but this depends on whether she finds any clues or anything to follow up in her quest for Alex.

Dr Ratnasothy has managed to establish her brother had been robbed and had left his passport with a travel company when he applied for a visa to travel to Tibet. His bank account remains untouched since February.

A message on the family's website pleads for anyone who has met the traveller in Nepal, Tibet or India to contact them.

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