Myles Robinson, Died Tuesday 22nd December 2009, Wengen, Switzerland
Myles Robinson was a 23-year-old 6ft 5in graduate from Wandsworth in south west London. Myles went to the Charterhouse school and Newcastle University, where he studied maths and economics.
In the early morning of Tuesday 22nd December 2009, Myles mysteriously disappeared from Wengen, in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland and apparently fell to his death close to the Swiss ski resort. The village is famous as it at the foot of the Eiger, the scene of many tragic deaths caused by mountaineering including the famous case of Toni Kurz and his group in 1936.
Myles and his family arrived on Sunday 20th December and for much of the following day, he was skiing around the Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg on a new pair of skis. On the Monday evening, they had a family dinner with two other friends. At around 10:30 pm Myles left to go for a drink with friends together with sister Cara from the family dinner. They first went to the Crystal Bar and later on to the Blue Monkey Bar with no evidence that anything was amiss.
Cara left the bar at about 1.30am and said goodbye to Myles who decided to stay on and he was seen on CCTV leaving the bar at 2.19am with friends and escorted one of the group, Amy O’Brien, back to her apartment building where they talked for 20-25 minutes outside sitting on a bench. Amy then went inside and assumed Myles would be walking back to his apartment at the Hotel Eiger. That was the last time anyone saw him, as Myles never returned.
Later that day on 22nd December, Michael, Sarah (his parents) and Cara were surprised to see that Myles had not returned to the apartment and were unable to reach him on his mobile phone. They quickly informed local hospitals, friends and so on but with no luck. At 11:30am, they contacted the police based in Lauterbrunnen in the valley below, as Wengen has no police station of its own. Two policemen arrived in Wengen at 2.15pm, followed later by further police and 2 detectives. There was extensive questioning with both the family, Amy, and other friends who had been in the Blue Monkey bar on Monday evening.
Following this, the police decided to start a search and arranged for a sniffer dog to be sent from Bern, a mountain search and rescue team and a Swiss Army helicopter with an infra-red heat seeking camera. However, nothing was found on the Tuesday evening searches. That day, many friends in Wengen had also arranged for posters of Myles to be put up all over the village as well as Lauterbrunnen and all villages as far as Interlaken.
On Wednesday morning, the story had been released by the police to local Swiss radio. The family gave their consent for this to also include written press. The family continued to help the detectives with possible footprints, bank withdrawals and visited the police station in Lauterbrunnen to identify a possible sighting of Myles in the car park. A further visual helicopter and sniffer dog search was carried out that day. On Wednesday evening the local tourist office in Wengen printed new ‘Missing Person’ posters and a volunteer group of over 50 people distributed these across the village.
On Thursday morning, the story had broken in the Swiss press and it wasn’t long before the British media picked up the story. They were encouraged to cooperate with the media to increase awareness of the issue and to hopefully put pressure on the Swiss authorities to step up the search. The coverage in the British media was extensive.
On Christmas Day, the family did a television interview with a Swiss TV station. Myles’ toothbrush and razor were taken for DNA and his phone records were tracked through the mobile provider Vodafone. Michael and Sarah had to go to the police station in Lauterbrunnen to give DNA samples.
On Boxing Day, the police were back in Wengen with sniffer dogs at both The Eiger and The Residence. The family felt sure that Myles would never have left the village, indeed it wouldn’t have been possible to do so as the only way up or down is by train and they do not operate in the early hours of the morning. They desperately wanted the Swiss police to search the village but the privacy laws in Switzerland prevent forced entry into people’s homes unless there is evidence that a crime has been committed and there is reasonable suspicion to enter a particular house. The family employed a Swiss lawyer to increase pressure on the Swiss authorities.
On 27th December, some close friends of the family arranged for volunteer search parties to cover Wengen on a house to house search. The search had to respect Swiss law and the only way a house could be searched was if the owner gave consent. Over 70 people joined in this search operation. A well-known Psychic from Bern also arrived to lend his help. He sat in Myles’ room and also on the bench where Myles had talked to Amy. The physic stated that ‘Myles did not leave with the intention of not coming back’, something the family had been sure of. He then had a strong feeling that Myles could be found in an area between the old Mannlichen cable car station and the swimming pool, and up the mountain for 200 metres. In gathering darkness, 10 or 12 people made an initial search of the area to no avail. Another search of the same area was arranged for 9.00am the next day.
On Monday 28th December, a bigger search party of some 30 people including some local guides searched the area, again with no success. In the afternoon, more search parties started looking at other areas of village and surrounding areas. One party descended to the Lauterbrunnen valley. An individual of the search party was an employee of Swisscom and had mapped out the triangulation of Myles’ last reported mobile phone use. The ‘footprint’ of the area included not only Wengen but also the valley below. Subsequently, this search party found Myles’ body in a woodland area to the northern end of Lauterbrunnen.
The body was found in an extremely dangerous area and four rescuers were sent to retrieve the body with boulders, rocks and ice falling from the mountain above them. The family were advised by the police that they could either identify the body in a tent they had erected in a field near where Myles was found, or they could go to the forensic department of the Bern University Hospital the next day, where Myles’ body would be better presented to the family and they would also learn the preliminary findings from the forensic doctor. They chose the latter.
On Tuesday 29th December, they were driven to Bern by the police where they confirmed the body was indeed that of Myles. The forensic doctor informed them that no suspicious details were found on his body and all the injuries would be consistent with a long fall through wooded areas followed by a long drop. There was no evidence of foul play with nothing suggesting a struggle with an attacker, skin under his fingernails etc.
On Wednesday 30th December, the family were summoned by the police in Lauterbrunnen to give them the findings from their enquiries. The police informed them that on the evening on Tuesday 22nd December, the sniffer dog had picked up Myles’ trail from The Residence and this led to a lookout point overlooking the Moench and Blick (somewhere that none of the family had ever been before).
They accepted their explanation that they couldn’t have told them this at the time due to the dangerous terrain of the surrounding area. The lookout point is a good 20 minute walk out of the village in the opposite direction from the Robinson’s rented apartment. Myles’ scent apparently ran out at the lookout point and the police believe he would have started walking back to Wengen and then either took a wrong turn or fell into the steep sloping woods which then lead to the cliff face.
The police assured the family that the surrounding area had been searched by the helicopters, but perhaps due to the extremely cold surroundings Myles was in, and the dense woodland area, they hadn’t been able to pick him up. Mountain rescue teams had not physically searched the area due to the potential dangers they could have faced. The police also reported that nowhere on the route to the lookout point did they find any evidence of a crime, a struggle, nothing. The police verdict was that this was a tragic accident.
One question will always remain, why did Myles walk to the Moench Blick look out that night and why did he stray so far from the resort in an area which he had not previously visited? The Robinson family have been skiing in Wengen for the last 15 years so Myles knew the area extremely well, raising doubts he could have simply got lost.
On Facebook Jennifer Jackson-Strage wrote: 'I can't imagine how he ended up so far from Wengen. I've walked that path in the summer and it took hours; have also been a frequent visitor to Wengen and would never have considered doing it in the winter let alone at night. It makes no sense.' Elaine Darby added: 'I hope we hear how this tragedy happened.... It's a mystery.'