As I was on the hill on Monday thinking I was on a new Corbett it seemed very familiar and as I neared the summit ridge I remember being on these two hills before. My memory can be pretty poor! It was on a call-out on July 1993 for a missing walker in the Kintail area, Fiona Torbet was a retired 62-year-old a retired consultant gynaecologist went missing on a walking holiday in the Western Highlands near Kintail. She was staying in a local Bed & Breakfast. Her husband who had been away on a sailing trip reported her missing when she failed to return. Kintail was a favourite place for Fiona who was an accomplished walker having completed the Munros. She was working on a list of hills between 2000 – 2500 feet and a year prior to her disappearance had published an article in The Great Outdoors a Mountain magazine. At the same time Alan Dawson had also produced a list on the same hills and they worked together to produce a list of hills which is now called the “Grahams” this was Fiona ‘s maiden name. This was some lady who was missing and we were all sure she had an accident in these wild hills. As is normal in such an incident the Police called in Mountain Rescue to assist and along with the local Kintail team Search and Rescue Dogs (SARDA) and RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. Over 400 hours of searches were completed by teams in Affric, Loch Mullardoch and around the local area. This are huge areas to search in remote areas. The searches were carried on for several months after the main incident. As is normal after a search is called off a few people carry on searching and teams may hold exercises in the high priority areas. Teams were still trying to find Fiona even into late December when the snows were down to 600 metres. This is to help the families of those who are missing and give closure to them. I have done on many occasions and is a part of Mountain Rescue that is hardly known. At times you get close to the family as you try to find out what the missing person may have done. Families in my opinion will talk to the team leader easier than the Police and in mountain incidents this can be a difficult to get a compromise as the Police always have to look at all aspects of a missing person. Could it involve a criminal act ? etc, not an easy task for the Police, especially in these days of a blame culture when things can go wrong.
This is when I climbed these two hills Sgumain Coinntich and Faochaig looking for Fiona, but to no avail. It is hard searching as you have to try to cover the ground but also look where a slip or fall could occur and on these hills there are many places. A lot of the time you stop and use binoculars looking for something unusual, it is a long slow process especially if there are few clues. At times like this the tabloid press can be terrible to the family and rumours can abound and it is hard for the Police and Rescue Teams at times to separate truth from fiction no easy task. Police had been told by a witness that she had left to start a new life? Many of her friends who knew her said this was not true and the family must have gone through hell during this period. Searches were called off and the case was put on hold by the Police an incredibly difficult time for the family.
In Spring of 1994 Fiona’s bag was found in a ditch it contained all her documents and cash cards. The Police then changed the theme of the search and in the sad end the story is told in “Blood in The Glens” Fiona’s body was found in the garden of the house she was staying in and the son of the owner was charged with murder and was convicted and died in prison in 2007. A terrible story the death of an incredible lady who loved the mountains. Sometimes searches for missing people are not what they seem at the time. There are some evil people out there. A sad end to a tragic call-out. I was doing some research for my book when I found this story and after speaking to my friends at Kintail I thought it may be worth telling.