Authorities in the small coastal village of A Pobra do Caramiñal, in Spain's northwestern region of Galicia, have been swamped by offers from volunteers to help find an 18-year-old woman who has been missing for almost two weeks.
Diana Quer, a resident of Madrid who was on holiday at a family home there, has not been seen since the early hours of August 22 after attending a local fiesta in the largely rural area with friends.
Investigators are not ruling out any possibility, including that the teen may have left voluntarily after a family dispute. So far no clues have turned up in the area where she went missing.
I am quite downcast, sad and devastated
Diana Quer's mother
More than 100 nearby residents have so far signed up to look for signs of Diana. On Thursday, 33 people were selected for the first patrol, which will search under the supervision of the Civil Guard.
Volunteers fanned out at 9am after receiving basic training in search operations, and began combing the hills of Barbanza, the area located around A Pobra do Caramiñal.
The response to the local authorities’ call for help has been “overwhelming,” said A Pobra Mayor Xosé Lois Piñeiro. Some people even offered their private drones to expand the search area, but these were finally turned down.
“For our part, we will do everything in our power to ensure this girl turns up as soon as possible so that we can give this story a happy ending and to maintain our village’s good name,” said the mayor.
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Local restaurant and bar owners have pledged to provide food and drinks for the volunteers.
Twelve days after Diana Quer disappeared, no physical evidence has emerged of her likely whereabouts, or whether she is dead or alive.
A new twist
In a further twist to the story, Diana’s mother has lost custody of her younger daughter Valeria after a court ruled against her earlier this week.
“I am sad and devastated, but have faith in God” said Diana López-Pinel in statements to Spanish news agency Europa Press.
But the girls’ father, Juan Carlos Quer, told media “the court’s decision unfortunately comes very late.”
Diana and Valeria’s parents divorced four years ago, and neighbors have said that the mother and daughters often had loud arguments at home.
Investigators have ruled out an early theory that Diana may have been assaulted by a man on her way home after it emerged that she had sent a Whatsapp message to a friend saying “I am getting really scared. A gypsy guy has called out to me.” The man has since been located, questioned and dismissed as a suspect.
The family has insisted throughout this time that Diana is being held against her will, while rejecting the term “kidnapping.”
English version by Susana Urra.