A teenage girl who authorities say has been kidnapped by her father has sent a secret message more than 12 months after she vanished.
Daphne Westbrook, 17, from the US state of Tennessee was last seen in Chattanooga in October 2019, and did not return from a weekend visit with her non-custodial father, John Westbrook, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The bureau charged Daphne’s father with custodial interference in June last year. In October, Daphne was placed on the state’s missing children website before Westbrook was charged with aggravated kidnapping last month.
An Amber Alert was issued Wednesday. The bureau said it was only able to issue this because Daphne’s father qualified for a crime in Tennessee but the pair “could, however, be anywhere”.
Girl's message for help
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston told WKRN investigators believe Daphne is at risk of self-harm and expressing “suicidal ideations”.
Mr Pinkston’s comments come after a friend of Daphne received a message, Fox 13 reported. It is not clear exactly what was said in the message or how it was sent.
Mr Pinkston added Daphne “has this odd affection” for her father.
“Prior to her leaving he would give her alcohol, marijuana, LSD, mushrooms,” Mr Pinkston told WKRN.
“And he’s now, we know from recent witness interviews, that she’s constantly drugged and/or drinking alcohol provided by him.”
The DA’s office said Daphne “is being held against her will, unable to communicate with the outside world”.
Missing pair 'almost impossible to trace'
Authorities have had issues tracing Westbrook. The DA’s office said he is an IT expert specialising in security, block chain technology, and bitcoin.
“He is communicating in a way that’s almost impossible to trace, which makes it extremely difficult for investigators to generate significant leads in this case,” the DA’s office said.
“We know he is earning money contracting with small businesses to do computer security work.
“We believe Westbrook does occasionally take Daphne to ride horses so we appeal to the New Mexico horsing community to be alert.”
Westbrook has also used 10 aliases and a number of disguises including fake teeth and hair dye.
He has known contacts in Washington, New Mexico, California and Colorado.
Authorities also believe there is a chance Westbrook and his daughter are in Sebring, Florida, where Westbrook’s sister lives and it is believed the pair recently had communication.
Police recently raided her home and confiscated a number of electronic devices.
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