Hodei Egiluz, a 23-year-old Basque engineer who disappeared in Antwerp on October 19, remains unaccounted for despite a continuing search by the federal police force in the streets and harbors of the Belgian port city.
To assist in the search, the European Center for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children (Child Focus) announced on Monday it would release 5,000 digital posters with Egiluz's details and picture across the Belgian national lottery network, with the aim of reaching as many people as possible who may be able to provide some clue as to his whereabouts.
The announcement was made at a press conference in the Museum aan de Stroom near the Scheldt river, where the police search is focused. "Hello my dear Hodei, this is Pablo. Your disappearance has overwhelmed us. We are looking for you everywhere but we can't find you. If you see this, if you can hear us, please, call us," said Egiluz's father at the conference.
His family has said that it holds out the hope that Egiluz is sleeping rough somewhere in the Low Countries and has asked that people in both Belgium and the Netherlands be on the lookout for him. However, Pablo Egiluz explained that the police are working on the assumption that "something bad" has taken place.
Katia de Miguel, a friend of Egiluz in Antwerp, said that on December 19, two months after his disappearance, a vigil will be held in Antwerp for the missing Spaniard. Egiluz's family is the driving force behind a poster campaign to ensure that the case does not fall by the wayside. The Child Focus drive was launched Tuesday, with Egiluz's image on Belgian lottery dispensers in sales points, bookshops, gas stations and cafeterias. According to Dirk Depover, a spokesman for Child Focus, around 700,000 people pass daily through lottery establishments.
The Belgian authorities last week reactivated their search effort around the quays lining the Scheldt with dogs, a spokesman for the judiciary said. A previous search conducted by boats and divers on November 6 failed to uncover any trace of the missing Spaniard.
Egiluz, from Galdakao in Bizkaia province, has been in Antwerp since March after he found a job working for a communications company called Createlli. Friends who were with him the night he disappeared lost sight of him between 1am and 3am somewhere in the vicinity of Hoogstraat and Suikerrui streets in the historic center of the city of some 500,000 inhabitants, and about two kilometers from Egiluz's shared apartment.
The Belgian police have arrested five people in connection with Egiluz's disappearance but little information has been made public as the case remains subject to a judicial secrecy order. Of the people detained, at least one woman has been released, the local daily Gazet van Antwerpen reported over the weekend. The woman in question has been identified as Carmen T., 45, and was arrested because she was in possession of Egiluz's cellphone. Carmen T. maintains that she bought the cellphone and has no knowledge of Egiluz's whereabouts. When she learned that the police wanted to question her, she handed herself in voluntarily.
No information was made public by the authorities on her release from custody, which took place last week "in total silence," the Gazet van Antwerpen reported.