In 2016, Tom Stewart, a 60-year-old British man, climbed an orange tree at Mount Carmel Hospital, then jumped over a wall and was never seen again.
Next month marks four years since his disappearance and four years of agony for his wife, family and friends.
“We feel like we’ve been dismissed by the police,” says his niece Stephanie Stewart, who runs a social media campaign asking for information from her home in Luton.
“Our last lead was in November when a woman contacted us saying there was a homeless man living in Marsascala who matched his description. My dad got on a flight straight away, but unfortunately, when he met him, it wasn’t him.”
Tom’s family has spent years and a lot of money travelling to Malta four or five times a year, trying to find any information that will help solve the mystery.
“My dad and my aunt take it in turns to go to Malta,” Stephanie said.
“As well as the cost of the flights, they have to stay in hotels, which all add up. When they are there, they literally walk the island to see if they can find any trace of him and put up fresh posters to try and jog people’s memories.”
In the moments before he went missing, Tom had been walking in the gardens of Mount Carmel Hospital with his wife Phyllis. Days before, he had voluntarily admitted himself to the hospital, suffering from mild anxiety.
“We’ve always thought the decision by his doctor to send him to Mount Carmel was a bit too much,” Stephanie notes.
“We think things escalated too quickly and stressed him out. That was why he decided to escape.”
Tom and his wife had moved to Malta a year before and bought an apartment in Balzan which they were renovating. They had holidayed in Malta for years, even coming here on their honeymoon. The couple planned to enjoy their retirement, but a combination of a stressful renovation project and Phyllis breaking her shoulder led Tom to feel anxious and visit a general practitioner.
“He never had any mental health issues before this,” Stephanie said.
Family spends years imagining dozens of scenarios
Phyllis still lives in Malta and at one point even offered a €1,000 reward for any information about her husband’s whereabouts.
The family have spent four years imagining dozens of scenarios. Tom had no wallet, passport or diabetic medication with him when he disappeared.
“We wonder if he’s maybe working cash in hand somewhere or was hit by a car and died. We feel that if he took his own life, there would surely be a body, but nothing has ever turned up,” she added.
Bar the sighting in November, there have only been two other leads.
One was by Tom’s neighbour at a bus stop in Attard a couple of days after he disappeared. The second was at the airport, when a man said he spoke to a British person who said he was diabetic and seemed to be sleeping rough in the area. None of this information led to anything.
The family say they are disappointed by how the police have failed to help them.
“They’ve told us that since the case has gone cold, there is nothing they can do for us at this stage,” Stephanie said.
But the police in Malta deny this claim, saying the case will remain open until Tom is found.
“We’d like to give the missing person’s family the closure they deserve,” the police told Times of Malta.
The police reiterated they have been working on the case since the man went missing.
“Searches started from the moment the Malta Police Force was informed regarding this missing person,” a spokesperson said.
“They took place all around the mental facility, along the agriculture land, quarries and other logically possible areas. These searches were conducted by the District Police, K9 Unit, Vice Squad Police, Civil Protection members and also with the use of drones.”
The police said the missing person’s details with photos were also circulated to the media and that the airport, catamaran and the homes for the poor and homeless were also checked.
They added that the police always kept communicating with the missing person’s family, also when several reports were received stating that Tom was seen in St Paul’s Bay and other localities.
“The police went on site immediately to check each and every claim, but all resulted in the negative,” the spokesperson said.
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