Praying for a miracle as new lead emerges
« Previous « PreviousNext » Next »View GalleryPublished Date: 23 February 2007
THE father of Alison Macdonald this week said he was 'very excited' at new developments which have seen detectives in India reopen investigations into her disappearance.
Rev Kenny Macdonald (71), a Free Church minister now living in Rosskeen, Ross-shire, is now waiting by the phone for any news about his daughter, who disappeared nearly 26 years ago.
News broke this week that Interpol have asked Indian authorities tADVERTISEMENT o re-open inquiries after a wanted Islamic terrorist appeared to use a Scottish dialect and phrases in a broadcast to his followers.
Syed Salahuddin is the leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the militant wing of a separatist Pakistani political party Jamaat-e-Islami.
He now also chairs the United Jihad Council, the umbrella organisation of all militant outfits fighting in Kashmir.
Salahuddin is on the list of 20 most wanted people which India provided Pakistan and Interpol in 2002.
One theory is that he may have kidnapped Alison and forced her to teach him English.
Rev Macdonald told the 'Gazette': "Salahuddin speaks English with a very west-coast Scottish accent, and some people have even said he sounds like me.
"A leading professor has studied it and is convinced that Salahuddin was taught English by a Scot. We asked the foreign secretary to look into it, and the police are now investigating."
A former customs officer in Stornoway and Coll councillor, Rev Macdonald has never given up the hope that Alison may still be alive.
Formerly a student at The Nicolson Institute, Alison was just 19 when she vanished while on holiday in the Himalayas with a friend, Liz Merry.
They reached the village of Sonamarg, 9,000ft up in the Himalayas.
While Miss Merry went off on a two-day trip to see the Kolahoi glacier, Alison stayed behind.
On 17 August she went for a walk, and was last seen buying apples from a trader.
Her clothes and rucksack were found in her room, and her disappearance was relayed to her family six days later.
Rev Macdonald, who is now blind and suffers from multiple sclerosis, has visited Kashmir and Pakistan around 17 times, in the vain hope of establishing exactly what happened to his daughter.
In that time, his hopes have been raised and dashed on several occasions, and he once even hired notorious bounty hunters in an effort to locate Alison.
To date, he is still at a loss to understand what happened to his girl.
This week, Rev Macdonald revealed to the 'Gazette' that his son, Sam, recently made a trip to Chennai, east of India, after discovering an interesting link on the Internet.
"He learned that three shops had opened close to where Alison went missing, and they were all called 'Alison'," said Rev Macdonald.
"Sam travelled over with his family to investigate, but as it happened it was all perfectly innocent. All that was meant by the name of the shop was 'Ali's Son'. As it happened I knew the grandfather of that family very well."
Rev Macdonald is in good spirits on hearing the latest development overseas, and remains convinced that his daughter is still alive.
"What is so exciting is that all of this has come out of the blue from India," he said.
"Something is obviously stirring them up over there, and that is a good thing.
"It may be that someone might be able to say something now that they couldn't have done a while ago.
"I have never given up hope, and what is great is that I have never been allowed to give up hope. Even though Alison went missing so long ago, whenever there is a development it is always given maximum coverage."
What is also encouraging, said Rev Macdonald, is that the inspector in charge of the investigation into Alison's disappearance in 1981, Mr Kuldeep Khoda, is now the police director general for the entire Jammu and Kashmir region.
"We are very good friends with him, so we regard that as a vital link," he said.
Rev Macdonald, also well-known in the islands for his abilities as a footballer with Back FC, lived in Skye for the last seven years before recently moving back to Rosskeen, where he currently preaches until a permanent minister is sourced.
He cites his faith in God as the decisive factor in coping with the trauma and heartbreak of the last 26 years.
"I can't imagine life without faith - it would just be impossible," he said.
"There is a power which exists that is higher than ourselves, and though we don't understand everything, we must take good things out of everything. God enables us to do everything we should do.
"Everything that happens is His will."