Scottish botanist missing in northern Vietnam mountains

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Jamie Taggart, seen here in a 2011 photo, is missing in Vietnam. His rucksack and passport were found at an accommodation in Sa Pa on November 2. File photo

A Scottish botanist has been missing since he left on a plant-hunting trip in the northwestern Hoang Lien Son mountain range more than five weeks ago.

Searches for the 41-year-old Jamie Taggart, who hails from Cove Village in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, have been undertaken, BBC News reported Tuesday (December 10).

Jamie arrived at a guesthouse in Lao Cai Province's resort town of Sa Pa on October 30 and took a xe om (motorbike taxi) to explore the hills.

The Herald Scotland reported that the experienced chronicler of worldwide flora was planning to document plant life at high altitudes.

The region he searched for the plants has a rugged terrain with dense rainforest and deep gullies. It is also inhabited by some of the world's most exotic species including orchids, magnolias and rhododendrons, the paper said.

His father, Jim Taggart, 82, told BBC Jamie had left his rucksack and passport in the guesthouse he was staying at. The guesthouse called police when he did not come back on November 2.

Jim said given that one needs identity documents when traveling in Vietnam, his son may have "deliberately left" his passport behind in case he lost it in the mountains.

He said he had received four text messages from Jamie before his cell phone went dead, and that his son's last message "said exactly where he was going."

"He was on his own but had been in that part of Vietnam [Sa Pa] two years previously and knew his way around," Jim said. "I don't think he got lost."

"Something has happened to him, but not necessarily an accident on a hill," he was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.

The father said he found Jamie missing as his son did not come home on November 29 on a flight he had been scheduled to arrive on, adding that he had very little idea about the situation.

According to BBC, local police and the British embassy in Hanoi had been informed of the situation.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman told BBC the office was aware that a British man had been reportedly missing in Sa Pa, adding that it is "in close contact" with local authorities and is providing his family consular assistance.

Nguyen Thi Mai Dung, deputy director of the Lao Cai Department of External Relations, told news website Dan Tri that her office Wednesday received a diplomatic note from the British embassy requesting that authorities continue their search for Jamie.

Major General Hoang Ngoc Thanh, director of the Lao Cai police, said Thursday that at the beginning of November his office was informed about a foreign tourist who had stayed in a guesthouse in Sa Pa, headed for the adjacent province of Lai Chau, which is separated by the Hoang Lien Son range, and did not return.

After being informed, Thanh said, the provincial police and Sa Pa District authorities have been searching for him but in vain.

The Sa Pa District authorities have informed their counterparts in the adjacent districts of Tam Duong and Than Uyen in Lai Chau about Jamie's missing case for assistance in the search.  

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