COMMUNITy spirit has come to the fore this week as Berwickshire residents united to search for Coldingham teenager Jamie Battison, who has been missing since enjoying a night out with friends in Eyemouth on Saturday night.
Nineteen-year-old Jamie had been at a house party celebrating a friend’s birthday before he and others went into Eyemouth to carry on the evening. The last confirmed sighting of the teenager was at 12.30am in the early hours of Sunday when he was seen leaving The Ship Inn.
A white beanie hat which he was wearing on Saturday night was found nearby on Monday, but as yet no-one has seen or heard from Jamie.
When the student failed to return to his Abbey Row home on Sunday his worried parents, who told police that it was “totally out of character” for him to stay out without getting in touch, raised the alarm.
By night time word of Jamie’s disappearance had spread around Coldingham, right along the Berwickshire coast and further afield, and the emergency services and concerned locals began to look for him.
Eyemouth and St Abbs lifeboats were both launched and searched the area surrounding the cliffs between Eyemouth and Coldingham but crew members were required to come to the assistance of a woman who had fallen down the cliffs as she joined the hunt for Jamie.
It was not just amongst the local community that concern quickly grew for Jamie’s welfare. A Facebook group called ‘Jamie Battison is missing please help us find him’ was set up and within 24 hours had attracted close to 4,000 members.
As the hours ticked by Jamie’s family and friends became more and more concerned and a group of Eyemouth residents set up base in the town’s Fishermen’s Mission, where operations have been centred ever since.
The organisers have been liaising with police and helped to co-ordinate searches by hundreds of people from Berwickshire and further afield who have scoured cliff tops, streets, fields and outbuildings in the hope of finding the 19-year-old.
The woman leading the volunteer effort is Lynette Wood, who together with other dedicated residents, went without sleep on Sunday night as more and more people found out about Jamie’s disappearance and wanted to help look for him. Although Lynette does not know Jamie personally, she knows many who do, and said she wanted to do her bit.
“He’s got a lot of friends in Eyemouth and the surrounding area and from what I’ve been told he is a friendly and popular lad,” she said. “Everyone’s in shock and my heart goes out to his family – no-one would ever want to be in that position.
“After people found out we’d set up in the Mission many came along wanting to go and look for him; they were out all night checking every nook and cranny. Police were advising people to go home but they wanted to keep looking.”
Lynette and other volunteers including Steven Tait, who has been ferrying volunteer searchers between Eyemouth and Coldingham in his van, praised staff of businesses on both sides of the border who had been quick to lend a hand.
In Eyemouth itself, Loughs, Trotters, Costcutters, The Ship, The Tavern, Contented Sole, Mackays and the Co-op are among the businesses that have donated food and drink. While in Coldingham, Mr Hassan, the owner of Spar, donated torches and batteries to help the search effort.
Large Berwickshire firms like Greenvale, Farne Salmon and Ahlstrom loaned high-visibility vests for volunteers to wear while Fantasy Prints in Berwick helped to print posters to alert people to Jamie’s disappearance.
Lynette is also grateful for the efforts of MSP Paul Wheelhouse. Paul, who lives in Ayton, was among those who went without sleep on Sunday night as he went down to the Fishermen’s Mission to offer his services.
He said the efforts of the local residents had been nothing short of “amazing” and praised them for being so disciplined and following police advice, even though they were frustrated that they couldn’t do more.
Efforts intensified on Monday after Jamie’s hat was found close to Eyemouth’s Smokehouse Gallery. And as the number of members in the Facebook group climbed rapidly, volunteers from all over the Borders went out to search for Jamie, with the hunt focusing on the Coldingham area.
An information point was set up at Coldingham Hall. Leading the effort there was Bobby Kerr. He said: “After seeing the people of Eyemouth come together so quickly we felt we needed to do something from this end.
“Our efforts have mainly concentrated on Coldingham; people have searched the cliffs down to Coldingham Sands, the old mill and the hostel. We’ve been trying to cover all the possible routes he could have taken if he decided to walk home.
“There’s also a lot of older people in the village who are too frail to go out and look for him but want to help any way they can. We’re just all hoping for the best outcome.”
The help and support of volunteers and well-wishers has not gone un-noticed by Jamie’s family. His mum Karen posted a message on the Facebook group late on Monday night, confirming that the hat found was Jamie’s. She then posted again on Tuesday night, writing: “I can’t begin to tell you how we all feel. It’s been the most testing and trying three days we have ever spent in our lives. The Eyemouth Mission has just taken my breath away at the efforts being put in from all people concerned. I also want to pass on our heart felt thanks to all the efforts of the Lothian and Borders police force; all rescue services that have been in attendance and our PC who has tirelessly kept us informed of all movements and outcomes.”
Berwickshire Inspector Andy Clark said police officers’ jobs were being made easier by the public’s efforts, adding that no-one was giving up any time soon.
He said: “We’ve had a number of officers out since Sunday afternoon and have been working alongside the coastguard, lifeboat crews and Borders Search and Rescue ever since as well as employing a helicopter from Strathclyde Police.
“I’m not one for searching places for search’s sake; we’re using search advisors to help us in our hunt for Jamie as it’s important we channel everything in the right direction. The response from the local community has been fantastic and any way we can get information is welcomed. If it comes from a social networking site I’m happy to act on it but I have to prioritise hard evidence. We’ve got all sorts of specialist resources out, including sniffer dogs who have covered the walkway from Eyemouth to Coldingham and there’ll be no let up in our search until I deem we’ve done all we possibly can.”
Jamie was last seen wearing a white hat, grey hooded knitted cardigan with stars on the sleeves, orange t-shirt and dark blue jeans. He is described as 6ft tall, of stocky build, dark brown neck-length hair and a stubbly complexion. Anyone with information can contact the Police on 0131 3113131 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.