THE mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Golcar man has deepened after more details emerged about the search for him.
Steven Cooper vanished after parking his car in a remote area of Scotland on the day of his 47th birthday in January.
The mountain rescue team that searched for him believes he is not there – unless he has deliberately concealed himself somewhere.
There has been no trace of Steven since even though the area was scoured by a specialist RAF search and rescue helicopter and the highly experienced Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team.
Team leader Willie Anderson has revealed that over the last 30 years he has been involved in the search for around 1,200 missing people, yet Steven’s is the only case where they have not found the missing person, alive or dead.
Steven vanished from his Scar Lane home at around 3.40am on the morning on January 21 and his Ford Focus was found a week later on the A86 about 20 miles north-east of Fort William.
Fuel receipts found in the car show he drove up the A1 into Scotland and eventually stopped near Loch Laggan close to Fort William.
Police looked for Steven with the help of a special search dogs unit.
A Rescue 137 Sea King helicopter was launched from RAF Lossiemouth and the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team was immediately called out. The search went on for five days, but Steven was never found.
Now, more than six months later, Willie says he can’t get over his only unsolved case.
“The whole thing has been completely vexing,” he said. “We don’t like unfinished business as we like to draw a line under all of our cases. His disappearance is a complete mystery. I have been in the search and rescue business for 30 years and this is the first time we haven’t found someone.”
The RAF scanned the area with thermal imaging to pick up residual heat, but found nothing. It also used sonar in the loch, but again drew a blank. Willie added: “We generally find people not too far away and Steven had a disease which would have prevented him from walking more than a couple of kilometres, so he couldn’t have got very far.
“I am confident he is not on the mountain.”
Steven suffers from a rare condition, Marfan Syndrome, which meant he could not work.
Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disorder of the connective tissue which can involve many areas of the body.
The most serious problem is weakness of the aorta.
He had camped in the hills near Loch Ness before, but when he disappeared did not take any camping gear with him, no money, no wallet and no passport – only what he was wearing.
Steven has two brothers, Christian and Mark, and his parents are Margaret and Donald Cooper who live at New Mill.
Steven lives with partner Claire Lodge, 15-year-old stepson Ian and 18-year-old stepdaughter, Zoe. He has a 19-year-old son, Nathan, who does not live with the family.
Steven’s grateful family has raised around £4,400 for the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, the Search And Rescue Dog Association and Missing People.
All his mum, Margaret, wants is information about her son.
“We just want a lead of some kind,” she said. “If he is out there we just want to know that he is OK. He doesn't have to contact us or come home – he could let the police know. We just want to know that our son is safe.”
Proceeds from a charity walk at a Wooldale pub on Saturday, September 6 are destined to go to three charities which have helped in the search for Steven.
Entry costs £10 per person and all entries must be made to the pub by August 31. Pop into the pub or phone 683458.