Vicky hunt heads south

DETECTIVES investigating the disappearance of schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton 16 years ago have begun searching a house 450 miles away in Portsmouth.

Lothian and Borders officers travelled to Hampshire to search the house where Peter Tobin is believed to have lived shortly after Vicky vanished.

Tobin, 60, was charged in connection with the 15-year-old's disappearance earlier this year, and police have already carried out a major search of his former home in Robertson Avenue, Bathgate, less than a mile from where she was last seen.

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The new search of the terraced house in Victoria Road North, in the Southsea area of Portsmouth, began yesterday, though police have not revealed if they are looking for a body or just evidence of Vicky having been there.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman would only confirm today that an operation was ongoing. He said: "Officers investigating the disappearance of Vicky Hamilton are carrying out searches in the Southsea area of Hampshire."

Detectives and forensic officers, dressed head-to-toe in white coveralls, were yesterday seen coming and going from the house, and a large white tent was set up in the garden. It was initially thought police were digging up the garden but it appears to be being used as a storage area.

Residents also said yellow boxes, lamps and tool boxes had been carried into and out of the house. One officer was seen to climb a ladder to check the guttering at the top of the house. There also appeared to be plastic sheeting covering the hallway.

Neighbour Adam Jeffrey, 42, said: "I wondered what was happening and I asked the police but they're being really cagey and wouldn't tell me.

"I asked several of the coppers and they said they were not at liberty to say. It could be a murder or anything, it's all a mystery. The police have been very uninformative and quite rude."

Hampshire Police said it could not comment on the investigation as it was only assisting Lothian and Borders Police.

Vicky vanished in 1991 as she tried to get a bus home from Bathgate after visiting her sister. The Falkirk teenager was never seen again and her body has never been recovered. The case was reopened in November, a move that was welcomed by her father, Michael Hamilton, who said the family were finally finding out what happened to his daughter. He said a resolution would "give us great peace of mind".

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In June this year, officers searched Tobin's former home in Robertson Avenue, Bathgate, where he lived with ex-wife Cathy Wilson. All the furniture of the family-of-three now living at the house was removed and the house stripped bare.

Police dug up the garden and removed the wallpaper and floorboards as they conducted a minute search of the premises. A specialist underwater team also searched a pond at the Boghead Nature Reserve, about 500 metres away from the house.

It has been reported that detectives visited Miss Wilson's present home in Portsmouth to quiz her about her ex-husband's day-to-day movements. She and the couple's son, Daniel, were also asked to give blood samples to eliminate their DNA from anything found in the house. The following month, police charged Tobin in connection with Vicky's disappearance and a report was submitted to the procurator fiscal.