NIGHTMARE WAIT FOR FAM­ILY OF JAMES MISS­ING IN COLOM­BIA

FA­THER SAYS RAN­SOM DE­MAND AND TOR­TURE VIDEO RE­PORTS ‘NOT TRUE’

Wexford People - - FRONT PAGE - By MARIA PEP­PER

THE FA­THER of Wex­ford­man James Hil­lis (40) who is miss­ing in Colom­bia, South Amer­ica, said the fam­ily are just liv­ing day to day in the hope that he will get in con­tact with them.

Jim Hil­lis of Barn­town hit out at news­pa­per re­ports that the fam­ily re­ceived a ran­som de­mand for €150,000 for his son’s safe re­turn along with a grue­some video show­ing him be­ing tor­tured.

‘That never, ever hap­pened. We never re­ceived a video. I haven’t heard of any­one who has seen a video. I don’t know where the news­pa­pers are get­ting these sto­ries,’ said Jim, who is in­volved in Barn­town Com­mu­nity Cen­tre and Squash Club.

Jim said he was in­formed by a lo­cal Garda in

Wex­ford that his son trav­elled to Colom­bia and has gone miss­ing.

‘Some­one re­ported him miss­ing in Colom­bia. The Colom­bian po­lice, through In­ter­pol, con­tacted Garda Head­quar­ters in Dublin, who got in touch with the lo­cal gar­dai. They con­tacted me about two weeks ago’.

‘The Columbian po­lice con­tacted the po­lice here to say they had con­cerns for the wel­fare of a man called James Hil­lis,’ said Jim.

He said the fam­ily were ‘ab­so­lutely shocked’ to read re­ports in na­tional news­pa­pers last week, claim­ing that they had re­ceived a ran­som de­mand.

‘I have never re­ceived a call from Columbia. I would like to know where they got that. I would hate peo­ple to think that I was asked for a ran­som and I didn’t pay it,’ he said.

Jim said he is in con­tact with the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and a lo­cal garda ev­ery week and ‘they haven’t heard any­thing’.

A lo­cal politi­cian made ini­tial con­tact with the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs on his be­half. ‘Ev­ery week they ring me and so far there has been no news,’ he said.

‘The Depart­ment have been in con­tact with the Em­bassy in Colom­bia. There is an in­ves­ti­ga­tion go­ing on over there.’

‘I ring the garda here ev­ery week and there is no update.’

Jim said it was very un­usual for James not to have con­tacted his fam­ily in so long. It is now about five weeks since he has been in touch and they are very wor­ried about him.

James trav­elled to Colom­bia from Tener­ife, Spain where he and his part­ner Rachel and their three chil­dren have been liv­ing. Since his dis­ap­pear­ance, Rachel has re­turned to Wex­ford with the chil­dren.

Jim said re­cent me­dia re­ports have com­pounded the fam­ily’s dis­tress. ‘My God, what makes it worse is news­pa­pers putting out these sto­ries that are not true. I want to clar­ify two things - one we did not re­ceive a ran­som for €150,000 and two, the re­port that we were sent a video of him be­ing tor­tured, that is not true.’

‘I was ab­so­lutely shocked when I saw that in the pa­pers. If some­one can come along and show me a video. Where the pa­pers get these sto­ries, I have no idea.’

Speak­ing about the fam­ily’s or­deal, Jim said: ‘We’re just liv­ing day to day, hop­ing that some­thing will hap­pen and that he’ll ring’.

A spokes­woman for the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs said: ‘We are aware of the case and pro­vid­ing con­sular as­sis­tance. It is the pol­icy of the Depart­ment not to com­ment on on­go­ing cases.’

James Hil­lis, miss­ing in Colom­bia, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­pol.

James Hil­lis who is miss­ing in Colom­bia.

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