The mother of a man who went missing in a remote part of Portugal nearly four months ago has issued a desperate appeal for help.
Joel Eldridge, 29, from Bexhill, moved abroad in January to help do up a house, with the intention of returning to the UK this autumn.
But after telling family that he was ‘fed up’ and wanted to come home, Joel disappeared without a trace at the end of July.
His mother Jacki told the Observer: “We are convinced that certain people know something about what’s going on.
“Someone must know something.”
Joel had been sharing accommodation with the people he was working with, but moved into his own apartment at the end of April as the
co-workers were “getting on each other’s nerves”, according to Jacki.
Joel was living in Macieira, a remote village which is a sub-district of Serta.
Jackie said: “We’ve just been out there and it’s really remote.
“You could not get around out there without a car, and Joel didn’t drive. He was reliant on his friends to get anywhere.”
Joel moved back in with his friends at the end of July and disappeared about two days later.
Jacki said: “The police said no taxis were called to the village and there were no buses to take him either.
“So he had no way of leaving the village.
“He has not been seen or heard from since.”
The last contact Joel had with his family was on July 17, when he wished his brother a happy birthday via Facebook.
Jacki said: “This is very unlike Joel. He has always kept in touch.
“He has missed three family birthdays, including my own, without getting in touch, which is very unlike Joel.”
She added: “There’s been nothing on Facebook, nothing on his phone and no activity with his bank.
“He does not drive and all his stuff vanished.”
Due to red tape, the Portuguese investigation has stalled, and nearly four months on from Joel’s disappearance, the house has still not been searched.
Jacki explained: “The police work differently out there. They have local police and they did their initial investigation and looked at the woods around the house. But they are not allowed to search houses. It was passed up to Judicial Police, who can investigate, in September.”
However the Judicial Police are still waiting for permission from a Judge to look at the files.
Jacki said: “It’s incredibly frustrating for the British police because they have to be invited to get involved. There is very little they can do here. They have to be invited to Portugal. So the trail is going very cold, very fast, as far as we can tell.”
A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “The Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team have taken over this enquiry, though they are still working with local Sussex officers, because they have resources dedicated to and focused on working with the Portuguese authorities in finding Joel Eldridge and investigating the circumstances of his disappearance.”
Jacki added: “We are hoping he will get in touch with someone, even if it is only an anonymous contact.
“If someone is in contact with him, if they could find some way of letting us know he is still alive.”
On July 26, Joel had contacted a firm in England about a security job for when he was due to return to the UK, but no one has heard from him since.
Anyone who may have heard from Joel since he went missing, or may have any other information, is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101, quoting Operation Lyra.