Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Father's hope for missing boy fades

Pierre Barnes vanished on Saturday after going for a bike ride on the island of Porquerolles, near Toulon, in southern France

The father of a British schoolboy who disappeared on a holiday island off the south of France during a severe storm has admitted hopes of finding him alive are fading.

Pierre Barnes, 12, vanished on Saturday after going for a bike ride on the island of Porquerolles, near Toulon on the Mediterranean coast.

His father Stephen, 57, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, said that when the youngster embarked on the trip the weather was calm and sunny and there was no hint of the oncoming storm.

Describing Pierre as a "lovable and slightly eccentric little chap", he told The Daily Telegraph: "My wife told him he could go out on his bike for a quarter of an hour. He was disobeying us a little bit as he was wearing this smart dressing gown that his mother didn't like him to wear outside. I warned him it could get caught in the chain."

Mr Barnes and his French wife, Florence, 43, had arrived on the picturesque island just hours earlier with Pierre and their other children, Zoe, 17, Desmond, 15, and Clemence, 13, for a cycling holiday during the half-term break.

More than 150 local volunteers joined the search to find Pierre and the day after he disappeared rescuers found one of his shoes on a coastal path, alongside his bike with its chain off.

Mr Barnes admitted that, despite the "tremendous response" from the local community and the search teams, his hopes for his son were ebbing away.

The property company director said: "I thought he could probably survive one night, then perhaps move about and be seen," he said. "Having been through a second night, we began to think there was less and less chance that we would see him. I don't think he would have given up lightly though.

"It was just a freak accident, one of those tragic things that no-one can be blamed for. You have to give children some freedom. He's the victim of the storm really."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "We can confirm that a British national has been reported missing in France. We are in touch with the French authorities and we are providing consular assistance."

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