Stoke & Staffordshire

Missing runner John Lawton: MP in appeal over search

John Lawton and wife Lynda, pic courtesy of
Image caption John Lawton's wife Lynda raised the alarm after he failed to finish the Taygetos Challenge 2012 race

Ministers should ask the Greek government to reconvene a search for a Cheshire runner who vanished during a race six weeks ago, an MP said.

John Lawton, 62, from Alsager, went missing on 8 April in southern Greece.

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for his constituency, Congleton, said he could have gone beyond the main area covered by the initial search.

Foreign Office minister David Lidington said it was not for the UK government to instruct the Greek authorities.

Mr Lawton disappeared during the Taygetos Challenge near the village of Kardamili after passing through the fourth checkpoint on the mountain trail.

'New evidence'

His wife, Lynda, raised the alarm after he failed to cross the finishing line.

Mrs Bruce said discarded packets of energy gel, believed to have been used by Mr Lawton, had been found close to the fifth checkpoint, indicating he had made it further than the area initially searched by investigators.

The MP said Mr Lawton's family wanted the search to continue.

Speaking in the Commons, she said: "All the information suggests that John may have progressed beyond the main area covered by the initial search.

"The family are therefore requesting that the Greek authorities be asked to recommence their search efforts to focus on the area highlighted by this new evidence."

'Local expertise'

Mr Lidington said that while he understood the anguish of Mr Lawton's family, it was not for the UK government to instruct the Greek authorities to continue the search.

He said Greek ministers might be distracted by the political and economic upheaval in the country but UK diplomats had worked extensively on the case.

Mr Lidington said: "It is the Greek authorities that have the local expertise, that have the legal responsibility and powers in their own country and who were co-ordinating the search on the ground.

"Official offers of support from the UK will only be made if the local authorities in the country concerned lack the equipment, resources or experience to conduct a search and request it from us.

"These circumstances did not apply in this case."

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