Missing Sailor Honoured By Colleagues

Sailors lining the decks of a Royal Navy warship as it returned to base have left a gap where a colleague who went missing during the deployment would normally have stood.

Leading Seaman Timothy MacColl failed to return to HMS Westminster while the Type 23 frigate was alongside in Dubai in May.

The family of the missing rating released 100 yellow balloons as the warship arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday August 13th.

A Royal Navy spokesman said:

''In keeping with tradition, the ship's company line the upper decks for the homecoming.

''A gap was left as a mark of respect for the family of missing crew member Leading Seaman Timothy MacColl.

''LS MacColl went missing while on shore leave in Dubai in May.

''The Royal Navy remains concerned for his safety and continues to provide support for his family.

''The matter is being treated as a missing person case.

''The Dubai Police have primacy for the investigation into LS MacColl's disappearance and search.

''The MoD and RN continue to liaise with and provide assistance to the Dubai authorities.

''The FCO also remains in contact with the Emirati police about their ongoing investigation.''

Westminster's commanding officer, Captain Nick Hine, said:

''Clearly we are all desperately disappointed that LS MacColl remains missing and our thoughts and prayers remain with his family at this particularly difficult time.''

During the warship's seven-month deployment to the Middle East, Westminster disrupted three groups of suspected pirates which were targeting merchant shipping, conducted security patrols in the Gulf and Indian Ocean and also carried out a £14 million drugs bust.

The ship seized more than 70 bales containing pure heroin from a dhow in the Indian Ocean.

The ship also paid goodwill visits across the region from Aqaba in Jordan to Dar-es-Salam in Tanzania, and took part in numerous exercises with coalition and allied forces.

Capt Hine said: ''I am tremendously proud of all that we have achieved.

''My fantastic ship's company has risen to every challenge that has been laid before them and we have had a tangible effect in making the UK's interests more secure as a result.''