David Wood, Marie, Tinnee Valley region, Alpes-Maritimes, France, August 2016
In August 2016, David Wood aged 61, disappeared without a trace whilst on holiday with his partner Valerie Armstrong in the Tinnee Valley region, Alpes-Maritimes, France.
David was a computer engineer with two grownup children. On the morning of August 2nd, the 61-year-old telecoms engineer set off to walk part of the mountain route between the village of Marie in Alpes-Maritimes and Clans, a small town about 6km to the south but was never seen again.
It is said to be a non-demanding and straightforward valley hike near the river, surrounded by forests, and one that David enjoyed most days, walking as far as he could manage, before turning back. Since the disappearance a year ago both his body and any evidence have not been found.
Wood was in good health apart from mild hypertension and and a brief episode of the inner ear infection, labyrinthitis, an affliction that can cause balance and hearing problems as well as nausea and dizziness. Rather than take tablets, he decided to get fit and had been on walks everyday in the lead up to his disappearance.
Wood was described as having a full head of curly, white hair and was wearing a sturdy pair of walking boots, a bright orange cap, beige linen trousers, sunglasses and a brown t-shirt at the time he disappeared. He was also using two walking poles to help him walk.
The couple stayed in the area around Marie in France, for six weeks of every summer since 2010. David was described as "eccentric and optimistic...a huge character, an unforgettable man and very funny.He is incredibly bright and an amazing father. He was a larger than life person...really beautiful person."
Wood had been gone for about an hour when Armstrong first called his mobile to see where he was. Nothing seemed wrong and he said he was on his way back, about half an hour away. Half an hour passed and she rang again. He told her he was tired and had taken a rest. Again, he said he was about half an hour away. Valerie said “He was supposed to be back by 2.30pm in the afternoon since he had a conference call booked. He had to be back. It is completely odd that he went so far.”
That was the last time the couple spoke. After that, Wood’s phone rang without answer. He had been carrying two phones, an English iPhone and a French mobile. It was the latter that he used for the call. David was subsequently reported missing by his wife when he failed to reappear at his holiday home.
A large search by the Alpes-Maritimes police department, lasted 10 days and included police, abseil teams, hundreds of local volunteers, sniffer dogs and a helicopter. Police attempted to use his iPhone signal to geolocate him but, because he hadn’t used it that day, an exact location hadn’t been logged. The best police could do was narrow it to two remote areas the size of a kilometre each. But, nothing was found.
A couple on a motorbike had seen Wood on the path to Clans, when he stopped to ask them directions to Marie. He had been heading the opposite way and this was the last time he was seen. The couple later said "He seemed so confused,' she said. 'That was the last time anyone saw him."
His elder son Danny, 32, a product designer in Brighton, who immediately flew out with his brother to help with the search, said on Facebook, “If he fell on the path or just off the path, he would have been found. The forest nearby is very dense and, although he is an inquisitive person, he would not put himself in any unnecessary risk, so walking deep into it seems highly unlikely, especially as he knew that he had to be back home soon, these areas have also been heavily searched.”
After three weeks of intense searching, the family returned to the UK, without any clues. Theories as to what happened to him abound. Did he fall and hurt himself? Did his labyrinthitis disorientate him and drive him deep into the mountains. Did he have heatstroke and get lost? Was there foul play involved?
Valerie said “But none of those things makes sense. I heard all his conference calls. He was a very honest and honourable man. He wouldn’t get himself into something strange. He just wouldn’t. There was a time when we thought, was it foul play? Has someone hurt him by mistake?”
Ms Armstrong is left clueless as to what has happened to David. She said: "It goes round my mind like a broken record. We believe something may have happened in his head, he got some kind of amnesia or that he had a stroke which made him confused and charge off into the mountains. But it's just unreal because there has been no sign of him. Nothing."
Lieutenant-colonel Blasius in charge of the French search said at the time “However, we are not abandoning the search and I remain firmly convinced that David Wood suffered a cerebral malaise, became disoriented, and is still somewhere between the village of Clans and that of Marie." He even employed a diviner and a spiritual medium in the effort to find Wood but with no luck.
Strange and disturbing.
The search for David continues with a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TrouveDavidWood/