Radwinter mother returns to Vietnam to search for missing son

SWS 25 Jamie Taggart

SWS 25 Jamie Taggart - Credit: Archant

A mother has returned after searching for her son, missing in the mountains of Vietnam, saying: “There were more questions than answers.”

Radwinter Parish Councillor Jill Mary went to Sa Pa, to look for her son, Jamie Taggart, 41 last seen in November 2013. However, she came home with his disappearance still a mystery.

Jamie, a botanist, had gone to a place called Heaven’s Gate at Vietnam’s National Park to look for rare plants. He arrived at his hotel at 8am and went straight out to look for species. He went alone. When he hadn’t returned to his hotel after two days, the staff alerted the police. There was a search at the time but it was hindered by snow. Now, 20 months on, there is still no trace of him.

Councillor Mary, 69, who has a gardening business called Elysium, told the Reporter: “Jamie was looking at rare plants that hadn’t been recorded. The area he went to is rich in flora and fauna and it is a vast area.

“Jamie runs half marathons. He is a part-time fireman. He is very fit. I couldn’t believe he’d just had an accident, until I saw the terrain and experienced the journey he went through. It just staggered me. I’ve been to Nigeria and India and I’ve never seen terrain like that.

“I got a mini bus from the station and it just went up and up and round and round like a corkscrew. The Rhododendrons are massive trees. The undergrowth is so thick you cannot see the ground. It is very high up, 2,000 metres, that’s metres not feet.”

This was Jamie’s second trip to Vietnam. His mother said his guide in 2011 had warned him to be careful.

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“He was climbing trees to get to the seeds at the very end. The guide was saying, take your boots off so you have a better grip.

“They were leather boots so they would have been discoverable. Local villagers pass that way at least two or three times a week. If there had been a body, they would have found it. If he had been attacked they would have had to bury him, they would have had to dig a grave, so would they have taken a spade? It’s inexplicable. If he had had an accident, he would have been found.”

Cllr Mary organised her own search in March this year and is currently thinking about raising funds for a second.

She said: “You can’t sit and wring your hands. You have to go on with life. I would like to organise a second search but you need the funds. It involves 10 people on the mountain overnight for three days. So they need provisions, accommodation and everything. A mist came down when we were there, it was soaking and unsuitable for searching.

“It’s very upsetting and strange. There was a lot of red tape. The British Embassy in Hanoi was very helpful. They organised a meeting with officials and sent someone to be an interpreter.

“It is quite rare for someone to just disappear. He could have gone past the main entrance to the left or gone further down the mountain, further along the other way. He would have been looking for something he didn’t know about that was quite special. He may well have gone off the beaten track, but in which direction: that’s the thing.”