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30th Jun 2023

Major search underway after mum vanishes near river five days ago


‘We are extremely concerned about Fiona’s welfare’

A major search is underway for a mum who disappeared near a river – who is feared could have fallen into the water.

Fiona Edson left her home in Chippenham, Wiltshire, at about 1pm on Sunday and hasn’t been seen since.

The 51-year-old, who uses a mobility scooter, will have been missing for five days by Friday afternoon.

Police, the fire service and the Wiltshire Search and Rescue (WILSAR) charity have been looking for Fiona since the early hours of Monday.

Dozens of specially-trained volunteers have been involved in the hunt, as was the police helicopter – which circled the town twice on Monday – and drones.

Boats were deployed on the River Avon by WILSAR, but subsequent searches of the water couldn’t go ahead due to the boat sustained damage.

The inflatable craft’s propeller was taken out of action when it struck a large metal object beneath the surface – thought to be a dumped trolley.

On Thursday, a cadaver dog – also known as a human-remains detection dog – was also deployed alongside the fast-flowing stretch of the river.

The dog can sniff out human scent particles emanating from the water – and then indicate the find to its handler.

In a plea for help, detective inspector Mark Kent, of Wiltshire Police, asked people to “cast their minds back” to Sunday afternoon and get in touch with any information that could relate to Fiona’s disappearance.

He said: “We are extremely concerned about Fiona’s welfare and we are continuing to provide support to her family as our searches continue.

“We understand Fiona left her home on her mobility scooter, although she does have limited mobility and can walk short distances.

“Officers have been working round the clock alongside volunteers from WiLSAR to try and locate Fiona.

“We would like to thank the members of the public who have already contacted us with information following our public appeals and we would urge anyone who was in the Monkton Park area on Sunday afternoon to cast their mind back.

“Did you see a woman matching Fiona’s description on a mobility scooter? What direction was she heading in? Did anything appear out of the ordinary?

“Any information you have, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, could be vital.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact Wiltshire Police on 101 and quote log number 342 of June 25 or 999 in an emergency.

Speaking about the damaged boat, WILSAR chairman Adrian Sawyer said: “Our 4m inflatable is the only powered boat based in Wiltshire.

“Until it is repaired we will be calling in mutual aid from out of county.

“In 2023 alone it has been deployed to nine incidents so far, and used to recover three bodies from rivers, in some very challenging conditions.

“It’s a vital tool, and essential to have available for any incident involving water or flooding”.

Related links:

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Inquest hears how Nicola Bulley died

Police to face no action over ‘revolting’ handling of Nicola Bulley case