The sudden and unexplained disappearance of 19-year-old trainee bricklayer Jay Slater from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire (UK), has captured widespread attention, prompting an extensive search effort and raising significant public concern.

 


 

Jay vanished on June 17, 2024, after attending NRG, a three-day music festival in Tenerife. His family and the community have rallied to find him, as have many British expats across the Canary Islands.  However, newly announced details about Jay’s past also appear now to reveal, not simply an innocent holidaymaker who got lost on a mountain trail, but a young man with an apparent knack for finding trouble.

While hopes remain for his safe return, questions persist about the substantial resources expended in the search and the apparent lack of results so far.  The fact is that no-one knows what happened to cause his disappearance, but his story has been repeatedly placed, rightly or otherwise, at the centre of conjecture involving alleged drugs gangs, rumours of conspiracy and now an alleged admission of theft, involving a €14,000 Rolex, just before he disappeared without a trace.

Jay Slater

Jay Slater

 Disappearance

Jay Slater’s journey to Tenerife should have been a carefree holiday. He attended a rave in Playa de las Américas on the southern coast, but events soon took a worrying turn.

Accompanied by two men he hardly knew, Jay left the party and headed to an Airbnb in the remote village of Masca. However, Jay never returned. His last known communication was a frantic call to his friend Lucy Law, in which he stated he was “in the middle of nowhere” without water and with only 1% battery left on his phone. He was apparently trying to walk back to where he was staying, a more than 11km hike through inhospitable terrain and sweltering heat.

Jay’s disappearance was immediately alarming. Apparently known for impulsive behavior, his family and friends feared the worst from the off. Despite his troubled past, they hoped this was just another misadventure from which he would eventually emerge unscathed. As he had on other occasions.

The Search


From the moment Jay was reported missing, Spanish authorities launched an extensive search. The Guardia Civil, Spain’s main paramilitary force responsible for policing serious crime, transit and border issues (among others), have conducted a 14-day operation in the rugged terrain around Masca, utilising both highly experienced ground teams and deploying aerial support, in the form of drones and helicopters. Despite these efforts, no trace of Jay has yet been found.

A former detective, Mark Williams-Thomas, known for his work on high-profile cases like that of Madeleine McCann, joined the search. Williams-Thomas has suggested that Jay may have been terrified and disoriented when he disappeared, which could have led the boy to make irrational decisions.  There appears to be little logic behind his disappearance.

According to UK national newspapers, like The Mirror and The Daily Record, after conducting an ever widening search police then refocused their search efforts on a ravine in the mountainous region where Jay’s mobile phone last “pinged.” Following well established protocols, in what can be complex, challenging and even hostile terrain, they have carried out a search.  Not everywhere on the island has a constant phone signal, with some areas being quite wild and uninhabited. Nonetheless there are only so many directions and trails he might have been trying to travel.

A Troubled Past

Though the primary police operation has now been scaled down the search for Jay continues, and details about his past have started to come to light, complicating the original narrative of an innocent teenager lost on a holiday.

In 2021, Jay, along with seven other youths, was involved in a brutal unprovoked attack on a 17-year-old in Rishton, Lancashire (UK). The group was convicted of having ambushed a young man, attacking him with a machete, golf clubs, and an axe. The victim suffered severe injuries, including a split skull and wounds to his shoulders and legs. He later described his attackers as acting “like a pack of gorillas.”

Despite the shocking severity of their actions, all eight teenagers avoided jail time due to their ages at the time of the incident. They were instead given community service sentences. Jay received an 18-month community order, including 25 days of rehabilitation activities and 150 hours of unpaid work.

The judge at Preston Crown Court condemned their behavior, noting a complete lack of remorse and their disrespect throughout the trial. He emphasised that if they had been older, they would have faced more severe penalties and most likely have served jail sentences. Jays recent history paints a picture of a young man prone to finding himself in troubling situations.

Wrong turn

An airbnb owner, of the property to which Jay was supposed to have gone in the remote village of Masca, reportedly saw Jay walking up towards the mountains alone.

Masca village is only a 15-minute walk from the AirBnb, however, Jay was reportedly trekking uphill when he departed the AirBnb, with the next significant village – Las Portelas – being approximately two hours away by foot, in the wrong direction.

Besides being some distance, the terrain can be challenging particularly to anyone unused to mountain roads, hikes and pathways.  It would have taken more than 10 hours to walk all the way back to Los Cristanos, where he was supposed to be staying, had he been going the right way.  No clues have been found despite an exhaustive search, with some suggesting he may have tried to leave the road altogether.

Mark Williams-Thomas

Mr. Williams-Thomas, the investigator who recently returned to the UK after a brief stay in Tenerife, released a video on X to address and “clear up” the inaccuracies circulating online about Jay’s case. He stated, “You will appreciate that as part of our investigation we have spoken to a significant number of witnesses both here in the UK and in Tenerife, including Jay’s friends who are fully engaged with us.”

He continued, “As such, we have received a significant amount of both personal and sensitive information. We have even spoken to significant individuals in the drugs fraternity in Tenerife. Much of that information is highly sensitive and so therefore we will not be releasing it.”

AirBnb renter says he has spoken to Spanish police

The accommodation, to which Jay returned after the event with two individuals he had only recently met, is far from most other signs of civilisation on the island – Jay and his friends were supposed to be staying around an hour’s drive away in the popular resort of Los Cristianos.

Ayub Qassim, 31, told MailOnline he took Jay Slater back to his rented holiday cottage after a rave in Tenerife hours before he vanished on June 17. There have been unsubstantiated suggestions that Jay had been involved in some nefarious dealings that had gone wrong.

Qassim added: “If I’d fallen out with him would he even come to mine?  There were no problems. You’ve seen the last images of him with his red blanket around him.  I don’t know if he had beef elsewhere because I don’t know him that well, I only know him through friends.”

Mr Qassim said he had only spoken to authorities in Tenerife. “I’ve spoken to the Spanish police and they’ve told me not to speak to anyone which is why I’ve been quiet.  I’ve not spoken to Mark Williams-Thomas or anyone like him because he doesn’t have any jurisdiction in Tenerife, and I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Public Concern and Response

The response to Jay’s disappearance has been overwhelming. Foreign residents on The Canary Islands shared information across the archipelago and throughout the holiday resorts, and many in his hometown of Oswaldtwistle and beyond rallied around his family, demonstrating incredible support and solidarity. Friends and volunteers have traveled to Tenerife to assist in the search, reflecting the strong bonds and sense of community.

A GoFundMe campaign was set up by friend by Lucy Law to raise money for finding Jay and has raised almost £50,000.  The fundraiser has been a beacon of hope for the family, dad Warren, brother, Zak and Jay’s mother, Debbie Duncan, provided an update on the campaign, once it had topped £30k clarifying that no money had been withdrawn as the family had funded their trip to the island and accommodation costs themselves. “Thank you all for your generosity and kindness during this difficult time,” Debbie stated, expressing gratitude for the public’s support.  The latest update listed some groups of people who have flown to Tenerife to help with the search, who would be supported by the funds and saying that the rest would be used to pay the family’s continued expenses while they stay on the island to try to find their boy.

However, bubbling below the surface rumours and theories have persisted.  In one troubling turn of events the family say the received hoax calls claiming that Jay was being held by smugglers whose drugs, it was alleged, he had been carrying and lost.  There has been no evidence yet revealed suggesting this story may be true, with multiple anonymous calls being put down to sickening interference in an already confusing situation.

“We are aware of the conspiracy theories and speculation on social media and some websites, and can only describe this as vile,” Ms. Duncan said. “The negative comments are extremely distressing to our family.”

Ms. Duncan and some friends of the teenager have reportedly welcomed some offers of help from TikTok searchers. But the flood of attention has also included many unfounded theories and conspiracies, and Mr. Slater’s family told British news media that they feared the online speculation had hindered the investigation.

She also told The Independent: “It is clear that the coverage of the case is building a perception that Tenerife is not a safe destination, and that the police do not act as favourably toward Britons on holiday as they would their own citizens.

“Everyone may have their own theories and feelings but to publicly post them knowing you are going hurt people is just cruel.” said Jay’s employers in a social media post

The authorities in Tenerife on Tuesday confirmed in an email that while the official search had ended, the investigation remains open until they have determined what happened to Mr. Slater.

“We just want to find him,” Ms. Duncan said.

Questions and Hope

The disappearance remains a poignant and complex case. While hope remains for his safe return, his troubled history might suggest to some that there is more to the situation than there initially seemed to be. The substantial resources invested in the search for Jay have yet to yield any tangible results, raising questions about the efficiency and direction of the efforts.  The Guardia Civil operation has been thorough and exhaustive, involving many professionals who know the terrain and the environment well, as well as many volunteers and amateur sleuths, some of whom flew in specifically to aid the search.

Nevertheless, the unwavering support from Jay’s community and the broader public shows the power of solidarity in this type of crisis. As the authorities continue to investigate, all avenues of inquiry remain open, and the collective hope remains that Jay will be found safe and well.

Highlighting the need for caution when in unfamiliar places, proper communication letting others know your whereabouts, and the importance of community support, this story underscores the importance of staying connected and informed, particularly in potentially hazardous environments.

The hope for Jay’s safe return is now coupled with an emerging understanding that his past could perhaps have contributed to the complexity of this case. As the investigation continues,  his disappearance will hopefully also lead to greater awareness of preventative measures for others.  Jay’s family of course hope for his safe return, but there are growing questions as to who he was with and why, and what caused him to allegedly call a friend to say he was lost, without water and with his phone battery apparently about to be depleted.

Lessons

The importance of taking precautionary measures when traveling, especially for young people, has been highlighted by many. One practical lesson is the use of location pins on social media to keep friends and family informed about one’s whereabouts. In Jay’s case, his last communication was an apparently desperate call with limited information. Regularly updating your friends and family about your location and your intentions can provide crucial details in case of emergencies.

Furthermore, it’s vital to inform friends or family about travel plans and destinations. Jay’s disappearance might have had a different trajectory if he had communicated more about his movements. For now the investigation will continue trying to find any clue as the boy’s whereabouts, and may seek incongruencies in the reports of family and friends. All anyone wants right now is to find him safe and well, but the longer the situation continues, the more questions we can expect to be asked.

We all hope you’re ok Jay.