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Is missing dad buried in garden?

PUBLISHED: 18:23 06 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:41 23 August 2010

GRIM SEARCH: The garden of the house in Jubilee Crescent is dug up in the hunt for Karl Hotchkiss

GRIM SEARCH: The garden of the house in Jubilee Crescent is dug up in the hunt for Karl Hotchkiss

DETECTIVES reinvestigating the disappearance of a man who vanished 16 years ago have begun searching a house where they believe his body could be buried. Karl Hotchkiss, formerly of Empress Road, Gravesend, and also known as Bert, was 24 when he was last

EVIDENCE: DCI Dave Withers

DETECTIVES reinvestigating the disappearance of a man who vanished 16 years ago have begun searching a house where they believe his body could be buried.

Karl Hotchkiss, formerly of Empress Road, Gravesend, and also known as Bert, was 24 when he was last seen on April 11, 1993.

The case was re-opened in February this year and Kent Police say they now have evidence that has led them to search a house in Jubilee Crescent, Gravesend.

Earlier this year the Reporter revealed police thought the man who vanished leaving behind his young son was probably murdered.

Hunt for Karl Hotchkiss.

On Tuesday, Kent Police began their search of the property, boarding up the windows and carrying out a thorough search both inside the house and in the garden, where a digger was seen removing turf.

DCI Dave Withers, of the Cold Case Investigation Team at Kent Police, said: "Karl has been missing since 1993, so we have to come to the conclusion that he is probably now dead, you have to ask the question, was he killed?

"After the appeal in February, and from other information that we have corroborated from local people, it has led us to this house.

"It is still a missing person's inquiry, but it is now a possible murder inquiry. We don't know for sure, but there is every possibility that we could find a body in the search.

"We are conducting a detailed forensic examination of the house, and also of the garden, where we are using forensic archaeologists and radar machines to see if the ground has been disturbed at any time.

"Hopefully we can find something, and get some closure for the family of Mr Hotchkiss."

The case is being investigated with the full support of his family, who still live in the area, including his now 19-year-old son, also called Karl.

Speaking on Tuesday Karl Hotchkiss' sister Kelly Hotchkiss, 39, who lives in Gravesend, said: "Ever since Bert went missing, I have been in limbo. It's a constant torment not knowing where he is. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about it. It's a part of my life I can not shut off until I know what happened.

"I am only a year younger than him and he went missing just eight months after our mum died. I know he wouldn't have just left me like that, so soon afterwards.

"I'm shocked and do not know how to feel about the latest part of this investigation. I am bewildered and only found out this morning. I hope they find something so that the torment will end, but if they do then the worst will have happened."

Bert was last seen at the Old Manor Shades Public House, Manor Road, and the Station Inn Pub, now Bar 24 in Station Road.

He was wearing black baggy tracksuit bottoms and green and black trainers. He was 5ft 5in, proportionate build, had blue eyes, short brown spikey hair with various scars and tattoos on his body.

In 1993 Kent Police launched a missing person investigation. However, this changed in 1999 when intelligence led officers to suspect that Karl may have been murdered. Officers re-investigated the case without success.

The search at Jubilee Crescent is expected to take up to two weeks. Officers are receiving specialist assistance from the Home Office Scientific Development Branch and forensic scientists.

The current occupants of the house have been re-housed, and police say they have no link to the case.

A mobile police station is based at Jubilee Crescent for the duration of the search and this will be open 24 hours a day for anyone who has any concerns or information about the investigation.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Karl Hotchkiss should call the incident room on 01634 884011 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Do you know what happened to Bert? Call the news team on 01474 320753.

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