Italy gripped by disappearance of fashion chief Vittorio Missoni

Jan 9, 2013

As Italians send team to Venezuela to help search, increasingly wild theories emerge

FIVE DAYS after their disappearance, Italy remains gripped by the fate of a small aircraft carrying the fashion boss Vittorio Missoni and his wife, with explanations ranging from a simple crash to a kidnapping by drug dealers to the emergence of a new Bermuda Triangle.

Missoni, 58, and his wife Maurizia Castiglioni, went missing last Friday when a twin-engine plane carrying the couple, two friends and two crew members from the holiday island of Los Roques vanished off radar screens en route to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

As the heir to the Missoni empire and the man "credited with reviving the fortunes" of the £150 million Milan-based label, as the Financial Times puts it, Missoni's disappearance has caused a sensation in his homeland.

The mystery has been fuelled by the failure of rescue crews to find any wreckage of the missing Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft despite an extensive search. The Guardian says an unnamed fisherman told Italian television he saw the plane "nose-dive" towards the sea and the pilot of another aircraft claims he saw it "swallowed up" by a vast cumulus cloud.

Neither explanation has convinced Missoni's eldest son, Ottavio, 28, who said yesterday the "least likely" scenario is that the plane crashed into the sea without trace. "My father will come back; we are waiting for him," he told the Corriere della Sera.

In the absence of hard evidence, some wilder theories have begun to emerge. It has been suggested the fashion scion might have been kidnapped by Venezuelan drug dealers; others think the plane might have been gobbled up by a "paranormal" force similar to that supposedly operating in the Bermuda Triangle. The deadly region even has a name: "Los Roques Curse". It has claimed 15 planes in the past 20 years, says the Daily Mail.

Italians also want to know why such a wealthy man was flying in an elderly plane built in 1968.

Relatives of the missing travellers are clinging to the fact that the son of one of the passengers says he received a text message from his father on Friday evening, some time after the plane was supposed to have crashed. A phone company told Italian television the text message had been sent, but it was unable to say exactly when it was written.

As the Italian foreign ministry sends a team of rescue experts to Venezuela to help in the search, Missoni's 58-year-old sister, Angela, remains hopeful her brother will be found. "It's better to be kidnapped than at the bottom of the sea," she told reporters today. "We hope all four are alive and well. We also hope that the searches go in all directions."

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