Barry and Chris Whyte came to Swindon five years ago, moving from Coventry to Wiltshire after deciding to venture south. Both keen walkers, they yearned to live in the south west and a little nearer the coast.

Barry, 74, had been suffering from a range of conditions for several years and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease after experiencing hand tremors and spells of physical impairment.

Barry has had several missing episodes.  Once he was out wandering all night but was fortunately found at 5am at a bus stop in Morden by two women on their way to work. The next time he got the train to Paddington Station but managed to get himself home again safely.  Last month he left the house with only loose change in his pocket and his bus pass. He boarded a bus to Salisbury then saw another heading for Bournemouth and decided he would like to go there.

Barry's wife Chris had got used to keeping an eye out for him, always making sure she had a clear line of sight from the kitchen to the front door, so she could spot Barry heading for the door. However he didn't go out the front door, he climbed out of a window in the sitting room.  He has absolutely no memory of this.

"I called out, searched every room," said Chris.  "You don't know what to do, I didn't want to, but I realised I had to call the police and rang 999."

Barry meanwhile had got himself to Bournemouth and spent some time walking up and down the prom, calling into the Tourist Information Centre in search of somewhere to stay overnight.  He didn't think about the worry and commotion happening back home.  Barry searched unsuccessfully for somewhere to sleep overnight.  He went to McDonald's, bought chips with his loose change and settled down for a few hours drinking cups of water.

"None of the logical things passed my mind.  I didn't think to go to the police or hospital at all; it just didn't cross my mind." 

Up all night, moving from one park bench to another, it wasn't until 9.30am the following morning that Barry thought he had better go home.  He retraced his steps, getting on a bus heading for Salisbury, then saw a red bus with Swindon on the front, got on that and headed home.  As he turned the corner into his street and saw all the police cars, it started to dawn on Barry that there could be a problem. 

The police had checked the whole house from top to bottom, asked Chris what Barry had been wearing and where he might have gone and went to places he may have gone to.  His bus ticket was tracked down, there was a sighting of him on one of the buses and CCTV had picked him up in Bournemouth. The net was closing in, but fortunately Barry got himself home safe and sound, much to the relief of his family.

Chris was full of praise for the police, "They were remarkable, so mannerly and reassuring.  They really did their best for us." 

Barry now understands the anguish caused by his disappearance, "I can't express enough my gratitude to the Force," he said.

Barry and Chris are receiving help from social services and looking at what they can do to help themselves.  One idea is to invest in a small GPS tracker which can be put in a shoe, bag or pocket. "It gives peace of mind to think that if Barry went off again, the tracker would tell me where he had gone," said Chris.

They fully support Wiltshire Police's plans to introduce the 'Herbert Protocol', which will be trialled in Swindon later this year.  It's a simple form already used by a number of police forces, which families complete giving a detailed record of an individual including photographs, distinguishing features and medical details.  Kept at home, it will only be asked for if the person is reported missing and could save vital time and help the search. 

"We will be the first to sign up!" Chris said.

Wiltshire Police advises people to call 101 straightaway, or 999 if the missing person is a child or someone thought to be at serious risk or harm.  Alternatively, you can also call the Missing People helpline on 116 000.

Missing People's advice to anyone thinking of going missing, who is already away from home, or missing a loved one is to call or text them on 116 000 or email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk

 

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