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Missing husband torment goes on
THE wife of a missing hiker from the region who disappeared in Spain last night said her torment was being made worse by bureaucracy.
Wendy Simm’s husband of 41 years, Gordon, went missing eight weeks ago while hiking in the Spanish mountains.
The 63-year-old, from Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, is an experienced hiker and author of several guide books – including two books coauthored earlier this year on Hadrian’s Wall and the Cleveland Way.
In July, he set off on a hike through the mountains in Nerja and failed to return.
The Spanish authorities conducted an extensive search, but found nothing. Many routes through the mountainous terrain are sided by deep gorges covered by dense undergrowth.
Mrs Simm, who is flying to Spain today as the latest search gets under way, says she is certain her husband died on the hike – but fears his body will never be found in such an inaccessible landscape.
To make matters worse, Mrs Simm has also found herself in the centre of an administrative and financial row. Only after someone has been reported missing for seven years are they legally presumed dead.
Without her husband’s signature or a death certificate, she has no access to savings or pensions in his name and will not be eligible for her own pension for another two years.
She says the present law leaves families of missing people facing financial difficulty and is calling for cases of missing people to be assessed individually.
“Dealing with all this administration has overtaken what I should be feeling, which is grieving for my husband,”
she said. “At times it gets too much. I also worry in case something happens to me before those seven years are up and then my children will have to fight this battle.”
The keen walker and photographer has two children and is also a grandfather.
Mrs Simm, who says her husband “was and still is” the love of her life, says ultimately they want to find him so they can hold a funeral and deal with their grief.
But being unable to settle his financial affairs for seven years
will add to their feeling of things being left open-ended.
“I want him found because I don’t want to think of him out there,” she said.
“He needs to have the proper respect and dignity of a funeral.
“I don’t think families in this situation can move on even if they’ve told you there’s no hope of finding them. But how can you even try when you can’t even settle their financial affairs? It’s just a torment. It’s inhumane to be treated like that.”
The father of missing chef Claudia Lawrence has campaigned for a number of years to change the law to help relatives of missing people.
Speaking on Friday, Peter Lawrence said proposed legislation to introduce a certificate of presumed death will get a second reading in Parliament on November 2.
The certificate will allow families to deal with their loved one’s financial affairs.But it will be some time before it comes into force.
Mr Lawrence said: “It doesn’t matter how long someone has been missing, whether it’s a few weeks or a few years, the feeling is the same. It’s a feeling of loss and not knowing what happened to someone.”
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