Investigators are in talks to launch a fresh search for missing Fraserburgh man Shaun Ritchie using new drone technology.
Police Scotland confirmed they are in discussions to utilise experimental sonar drones in a bid to find the 20-year-old who was last seen at Kersiehill Farm, near Strichen, on Halloween night 2014.
On Wednesday, The Press and Journal revealed that Dr Alastair Ruffell, who is currently testing the equipment, believed his drones could help assist officers in a fresh search for Shaun.
Detective Inspector Martin MacDougall, who leads the investigation, says talks are now underway.
He said: “We are in discussion with Dr Ruffell with a view to utilising the search technology which was not available during the original search.”
Dr Ruffell was involved in the original search for Shaun but was only able to cover 10-20% of the boggy search area that he would have wanted to.
The new sonar equipment would allow him to cover a far greater area, including land deemed inaccessible for his ground penetrating radar first time round.
‘It may lead to something regarding my brother’
Nicole Shand, Shaun’s sister, has pleaded with officers to take up the professor and expert IRA grave finder’s help.
She said: “I would like Police Scotland to take on board what the scientist Dr Alastair Ruffell (said) and to do another search of the area with this new technology as it may lead to something regarding my brother Shaun.
“We want and need answers surrounding Shaun’s disappearance.
“Anything that comes to light or anyone willing to help I feel needs to be actioned and worked on.
“He is our family member and we want him found, so I would like to urge Police Scotland to please help and potentially use this new equipment as it may help.”
Dr Ruffell told The Press and Journal that he was confident that Shaun was not in the bog area he had originally searched around Kersiehill Farm.
The professor was speaking following the release of our documentary Missing from The Broch: The Disappearance of Shaun Ritchie which shed fresh light on the investigation.
‘This new technology will help’
Nicole believes Dr Ruffell’s original findings, which did not locate Shaun, is a good reason to expand the search parameters using the professor’s new sonar drones.
“I don’t feel Shaun is in the area where the scientist already searched because I feel if he was (then) he would have been found seven years ago when the search was first happening,” she said.
“But with this new technology it will help search that area out there again where Shaun was last seen and may lead to something – or it may be that Shaun is not in that area at all.
“(We) may need the search widened and potentially a new line of enquiry.”
Shaun travelled in a van to the remote farmhouse near Strichen with seven other people on Halloween night 2014 and has never been seen again.
‘Seven years too long’
The Press and Journal documentary revealed that there had been a disturbance in the van which drove him to Kersiehill Farm that night followed by allegations of an axe attack.
Shaun was reported missing on November 2 and in the early days of the search his lighter, belt, jumper and shoes were found in different locations near the farm and surrounding fields.
Since those initial findings however there has been no major breakthroughs in the case.
Dr Ruffell’s original search focussed on the bog area close to where the jumper and shoes were found.
For the last seven years Shaun’s family have kept up an unrelenting quest for answers and have been “overwhelmed” by the continued support of the general public.
Nicole said: “We miss Shaun and just want him found now.
“It has been seven years too long and we want to keep fighting for closure because it’s what we, and Shaun, deserve.”