Jay Slater’s disappearance in Tenerife sparks online investigation and speculation

When a young British man went missing while on holiday on the Spanish island of Tenerife in mid-June, the usual routine unfolded: search and rescue workers combed the area, tearful family reports and constant unconfirmed reports of him being seen.

And soon after, another increasingly common feature of missing persons cases was added: online sleuths who are convinced they can solve the case by doing something the police haven’t done yet.

This weekend, Spanish authorities called off the search for Jay Slater, a 19-year-old apprentice bricklayer from the UK who was visiting the popular holiday destination of Tenerife. But conspiracy and other theories continue even after the 14-day manhunt officially ended. Spread it online.

“There is a small minority that believes these things and is involved,” said Aleksandra Cicciocka, a professor of political psychology at the University of Kent, “but they can be very disruptive to families and the whole investigation process.”

Slater had been attending a music festival on the island with friends, his mother Debbie Duncan said in a statement through missing persons charity LBT Global. On the final night of the festival, Slater went to an apartment in a secluded part of the island with two people he had met at the event, said Lucy Law, a friend of Slater’s who provided details on an online fundraising page for his family.

The next morning, June 17, Ms Law received a call from Mr Slater saying he was lost in the mountains, thirsty and his phone battery was dead. He called another friend, He told the British press Mr Slater decided to go down a “little hill” on the side of the road and that morning was the last time anyone heard from him.

Authorities in Tenerife, with the help of specialized search dogs, have been searching for almost two weeks in the area around Masca, a mountain village near a nature reserve. Temperatures on the island off Africa’s northwest coast hover around 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).

Spanish security forces have released few details about the incident, and over the weekend they called off the search, calling for volunteers with rough terrain experience. The British press.

The search unfolded against the backdrop of frenzied attention from the British press and an impromptu group of conspiracy theorists. A Facebook group with more than 600,000 members saw watchers retracing Slater’s last steps and searching livestreams from Tenerife in the hope of finding any trace of him. Climbers and Influential people To Criminal Investigator — headed to the island to help with the search.

“I know there are conspiracy theories and speculations circulating on social media and some websites, but this is just awful,” Duncan said. “The negative comments are extremely painful for our family.”

Still, Duncan and friends of the girl, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, It is said to have been welcomed There have been some offers of help from TikTok searchers, but the flood of attention has also included a lot of unfounded theories and conspiracies, with Slater’s family saying: UK News Media They worry that online speculation is hindering the investigation.

One group administrator, who said he was in contact with the family, criticized the spread of conspiracy theories. Platforms like TikTok.

Mr Slater’s employer, PHBuild Group, said last week it had received abusive emails on Facebook, saying: “Everyone may have their own thoughts and feelings but to post them publicly knowing that they will hurt people is cruel.”

Tenerife authorities confirmed in an email on Tuesday that while the official search has ended, investigations are continuing until it is known what happened to Slater.

“We just want to find him,” Duncan said.

Conspiracy theories can garner a lot of attention and interest on social media, Cicciocka said, and sharing them can help people feel like they’re creating order in a chaotic situation, even if it’s something they’re not actually involved in.

“It’s a coping mechanism to help people deal with an unmanageable reality,” Cicciocca said.

Overall, the number of people who create and share these theories is often small, but because misinformation spreads quickly, small groups can have a big impact.

Other cases have also sparked intense online speculation. The family of Nicola Bly, a 45-year-old woman from Lancashire, England, who died after falling into a river in 2023, Criticized Although the coroner’s report did not find any third party involvement, speculation was rife on social media following her death. Bree’s family urged the public to “look at the facts and the evidence” and ignore amateur opinion, adding that people should “be mindful of the impact of their words”.

Greek authorities discovered the body of British medical journalist and documentary maker Dr Michael Mosley earlier this month, and said he likely died of natural causes. His disappearance prompted an extensive search on the Greek island of Symi.


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