Jay Slater search volunteer condemns online trolling

Jay Slater smiling into the camera, next to an image of Spanish rescue teams peering into a ravine
Jay Slater disappeared on 17 June and has not been seen since [Handout/PA Media]

The mother of Jay Slater's best friend told the BBC a deluge of online trolling has added to their "living nightmare".

Rachel Hargreaves, 34, is in Tenerife supporting Mr Slater's mother Debbie Duncan and has spent days in the mountains desperately searching for the 19-year-old.

Her son Brad travelled to the Canary Islands with Mr Slater, who has been missing since 17 June after failing to return to their accommodation.

Ms Hargreaves, a chef from Accrington in Lancashire, said a troll had even impersonated her late mother, who died eight months ago.

Her comments came after Ms Duncan said some of the £36,000 raised in a fundraising appeal would be used to support mountain rescue search efforts.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said he was "desperately keen to find out what has happened" to Mr Slater.

Jay Slater smiles at the camera wearing a grey t-shirt with green patches on the shoulders
Jay Slater pictured in the clothing he was wearing when he was last seen. [Handout]

Ms Hargreaves described Mr Slater as a "lovely lad" who was close to completing his apprenticeship in brick-laying, and who was popular with his friends.

She and Brad, who she described as "not really coping", have vowed to stay in Tenerife "as long as it takes" to support Mr Slater's mother.

Since Mr Slater's friends and family raised the alarm, the case has attracted intense public interest, which has also seen a wave of conspiracy theories and malicious online behaviour.

Ms Hargreaves became a target after agreeing to help run an online Facebook group set up by the family, which now has more than 590,000 members.

She told the BBC the thousands of comments and messages included many from people who were genuinely trying to help, but had been missed due to the deluge of negativity or speculation.

She said one of the most upsetting examples was when she received a friend request on Facebook from a fake account using her mother's name and picture, while her son also received a message saying "I miss you".

'Worst nightmare'

“The picture of my mum is an old one but it was on my Facebook and somehow they have got their hands on it," she said.

“We’re living the worst nightmare you can live and this does not help. I’m a strong person and that affected me. Things don’t normally get to me."

She said: "You can’t put into words how you feel. I’m just here trying to support and be strong for her.

"The things she can’t do I am trying to do for her, mother-to-mother.

“We have become a lot more closer friends since this.

"We’d always chatted about Jay and Brad, we were just caring mothers who wanted to make sure they were safe."

Ms Hargreaves said Ms Duncan was working closely with the Spanish authorities, but had "absolutely no idea" what had happened to the teenager.

She added: "The stuff people have been saying about us is just not true. We are not those kinds of people at all."

Earlier Ms Duncan, from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, thanked the public for all the support and donations in "dark times".

She said: "Additionally, since our stay in Tenerife needs to be extended, we will also use the funds to cover accommodation and food expenses.

"I'm surrounded by wonderful people who are by my side, but far from their loved ones, so we'll also be using part of these funds to fly them to Tenerife so we can support each other during these dark times."

The appeal has so far raised more than £36,000.

Ms Duncan said the money, which is "being held safely" by the crowdfunding site, has not yet been accessed.

A map of Tenerife showing Jay Slater's movements
A map of Tenerife showing Jay Slater's movements [BBC]

On Thursday Ms Duncan wrote on Facebook that while it was "difficult to wrap our heads around what is happening", Mr Slater's family and friends "are not losing hope" that they will find her son.

Ms Duncan said she is now working with Gofundme to withdraw some of the donated money, to be used to support mountain rescue teams in their efforts searching for Mr Slater.

Ms Hargreaves told the BBC that Ms Duncan had been reluctant to use the money due to negative comments online and had been "paying for everything out of her own pocket".

Foreign Secretary David Cameron earlier told BBC Radio Lancashire that he was "thinking and worrying about the family and this young man".

He added: "Consular officials are there in Tenerife talking with the family, talking with the local authorities there, and I'm desperately keen that we make progress and find out what's happened."

Mr Slater had reportedly left the tourist hotspot of Playa de las Americas in the south of the island with two British men in the early hours of June 17.

His last known location was a path in the mountainous Rural de Teno national park, about 40 minutes drive from where he left his friends.

A black search dog trots along a rural path with two handlers
Specially trained search dogs from Madrid were brought in to assist with the search for Jay Slater [Reuters]

Mr Slater, an apprentice bricklayer, had travelled to Tenerife to attend the NRG music festival with two friends.

He was last heard from shortly before 9:00 BST on June 17 when he called a friend to say he was lost, thirsty and had 1% battery on his phone.

Mountain rescue teams, the Guardia Civil police, drones, specialist search dogs and helicopter crews have been involved in the search without success so far.

Lancashire Police said they have offered assistance to their Spanish counterparts, who declined saying they "have the resources they need".

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