Search for missing British teenager in Tenerife hindered by social media conspiracy theories

22 June 2024, 07:32

Jay Slater had travelled to the Canary Islands for a music festival
Jay Slater had travelled to the Canary Islands for a music festival. Picture: Social media/Alamy

By Will Conroy

The search for the missing British teenager in Tenerife has entered it's sixth day after efforts have been hindered by conspiracy theories posted in social media groups created to help find the 19-year-old.

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Jay Slater, from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, had travelled to the Canary Islands for a weekend music festival with two friends when he disappeared late on Sunday evening.

He was attending the 'New Rave Generation' (NRG) festival, but chose to stay behind with a group of strangers he had met instead of returning to where he was staying with friends.

Jay made a final call to one of his friends, Lucy Mae Law, at around 8am on Monday before he vanished. He sounded disorientated, explaining that he was "in the middle of mountains" with "nothing around", she said.

The focus area of the search for Jay reportedly moved to the ravine area in the Masca Valley on Friday - around 100 metres down below a rental property he visited after the festival.

Read more: Spanish police reject help from Lancashire Constabulary as desperate search for missing Brit Jay Slater continues

More than 464,000 people have joined the “Jay Slater Missing” Facebook page
More than 464,000 people have joined the “Jay Slater Missing” Facebook page. Picture: Alamy

Friends, family and other volunteers have flown out to help with the search, with some posting videos to social media, including Facebook and Tiktok.

However, with more than 464,000 people joining the “Jay Slater Missing” Facebook page, other users have been speculating with conspiracy theories about his disappearance that are hindering the search.

Some have suggested the teenager had been kidnapped or is hiding, while other posts speculated that Spanish police had retrieved his belongings but were keeping the discovery a “secret”.

A view of the Airbnb in Masca, where Jay Slater resided before his disappearance.
A view of the Airbnb in Masca, where Jay Slater resided before his disappearance. Picture: Alamy

Online moderators have urged users not to post “unhelpful” and inaccurate information and said they were banning those posting “malicious” comments.

One user said: “Some of the comments and posts in here are absolutely disgusting… Have some bloody respect will ya.”

A crowdfunding website, set up by Jay’s friend Lucy to “get Jay Slater home”, has received more than £24,000 in donations.

Debbie Duncan, Jay's mother travelled to Tenerife on Tuesday to help with the search and said it has been “an absolute living nightmare”.

She told ITV News: “He’s the life and soul, he’s a beautiful boy.”

Read more: Helicopters and sniffer dogs deployed as Spanish authorities focus on new terrain in search for missing Jay Slater

Read more: Web sleuths bombard social media pages with conspiracy theories as search for missing Jay Slater enters day five

This comes after Lancashire Constabulary confirmed that it had offered to assist in the search for Jay but Spanish police turned them down.

In a statement, the force said: "Whilst this case falls outside the jurisdiction of UK policing, we have made an offer of support to the Guardia Civil to see if they need any additional resources.

"They have confirmed that at this time they are satisfied that they have the resources they need, but that offer remains open and they will contact us should that position change."

Jay's friends have criticised Spanish police for "not doing a good enough job".

Lucy told The Times: "We were driving around the island for 12 hours. We have been everywhere you can imagine, up and down the mountain several times and searching spots that he might have sheltered in.

"We are having to do this all by ourselves as Spanish police are not doing a good enough job. They don’t even speak English.

"It’s been a very slow process here so we need the British police to come out and help them.”

Jay Slater's last location was the Rural De Teno park
Jay Slater's last location was the Rural De Teno park. Picture: Getty

The owner of the flat where Jay had visited after the festival said she spotted him "walking fast" up a dangerous ravine.

Ophelia, who owns Casa Abuela Tina, said she was "very worried" about him following his disappearance.

She said she saw him walk off on his own in a mountainous area near Masca.

"It’s dangerous walking around here, it’s easy to lose yourself," she told Manchester Evening News.

"He walked up the road when I saw him for the last time.

"He was alone. He was walking normally, though he was fast."

On Thursday night, the Spanish Civil Guard shared a video of their search efforts for Jay.

Sharing the footage to X, they wrote: “The search for the young British man missing in the Masca neighbourhood of Buenavista (Tenerife) continues, in which different units of the Civil Guard participate.”

The footage showed officers scouring different expanses of the mountainous region by foot, car and helicopter.