Police Investigate Britons’ Disappearance
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Police and the British Embassy said today they were investigating the disappearance of two British teachers in kidnap-plagued Moslem west Beirut.
″We have been informed of their disappearance and are investigating the possibility that they had been kidnapped. But we have nothing conclusive yet,″ said police Chief Maj. Gen. Osman Osman.
Osman said the American University of Beirut reported the disappearance of Leigh Douglas, 34, of Norfolk, England, on Saturday, when the political science professor failed to show up for work.
The other missing Briton was identified as Philip Ralph Padfield, 40, of Bideford, Devon, director of the Beirut branch of the London-based International Language Center.
Osman said the managment of the branch, known as the Rashideen school, reported Padfield’s disappearance Sunday when he failed to return calls to several friends, including the school manager.
A spokesman said the British Embassy was ″making contacts with various parties to determine whether the two teachers have been abducted. We have nothing solid so far.″
Friends of the missing men said they were last seen together at a west Beirut bar that is only a couple of blocks from kidnap-plagued areas of the city’s Moslem sector.
″No one has seen them since then,″ said an English friend who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said he left notes in their apartments near the AUB compound to call him, ″but I got no reply.″
AUB’s acting president, Professor Lutfi Diab, said Douglas had lived in Beirut for eight years and was a full-time teacher at the universitry.
″When he failed to show up at classes, we informed the authorities,″ Diab said. He declined to speculate whether Douglas was abducted.
Mary Zein, president of the Rashideen school, said Padfield’s disappearance was ″a great shock. He’s done a wonderful job for 13 years and he has no enemies.″
Douglas and Padfield were close friend and both spoke fluent Arabic. No group has claimed to have kidnapped them. But claims of responsibility have taken up to two weeks to surface in earlier abductions.
One other Briton, writer Alec Collett, is known to be held hostage in Lebanon.
His kidnappers warned March 25 that he was suffering from a severe kidney ailment and was in ″extreme danger.″ They demanded the British government send dialysis equipment to Lebanon to help treat him.
The New York-based Collett, 64, was kidnapped on Beirut’s southern outskirts on a writing assignment for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency March 25, 1985.
The Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Moslems, a group believed linked to the Palestinian terrorist faction led by Abu Nidal, said it kidnapped him.
The group has demanded the release of three Arabs convicted in London for the June 1982 attempt to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has refused to comply.
At least five other Britons were kidnapped in militia-ruled west Beirut last year.
One, Dennis Hill, an AUB English language teacher, was found shot dead May 29, 1985. The four others were released by their unidentified captors.
Altogether, 46 foreigners have been kidnapped in Lebanon since January. 1984. Twenty-six have been freed and three, including Hill, are known to have been killed.
Islamic Jihad, a shadowy pro-Iranian Shiite Moslem extremist faction, claims to have killed two hostages, an American and a Frenchmen. However, there is no proof that either man is dead.
The group claims it holds five other Americans and three Frenchmen.
Four other French newsmen, an Italian businessman and a South Korean diplomat also are being held captive.