Search intensifies across Hampshire for missing army veteran Danny Johnston
IT WAS a mixture of hope and worry as a team of volunteers last night continued their desperate search for a missing veteran.
More than 30 soldiers – both serving and veterans – rallied to carry on the hunt for missing Danny Johnston, who disappeared from his mother’s home in Macklin Road, Bognor Regis over the weekend.
Yesterday’s efforts were focused on the Queen Elizabeth Country Park on the outskirts of Petersfield. It was the last known location police received for the 35-year-old veteran’s phone before it went dark.
Within hours, the team of volunteers had amassed two main squads and set up a control centre inside a cabin at the beauty spot – with help pouring in from across Sussex and Hampshire.
The bulk of the support came from the battalions within Danny’s former unit, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – Hampshire’s local army regiment. But there were others too: friends, strangers, retired soldiers from other units – even families with dogs joined the hunt.
When I arrived just after 6.30pm the search was in full swing, with much of the park having been checked with drones and on foot. Teams were now spreading their way across the rolling hills of Hampshire.
Hopes were lifted moments after getting there as one of the teams called in a promising lead.
They had found a campsite owner nearby who said he might have recognised Danny from a picture the hunters had shown him of the Afghanistan veteran.
But this proved a false alarm, leaving a noticeable dent in the team’s morale.
With night drawing in, the search was called off. But as his friends told me, this would not deter them from finding Danny.
They say his phone had been picked up three times since his disappearance, once in Bognor, then Lavant and lastly the country park.
They feel this is a good sign – and believe it shows he might be heading in the direction of Winchester and to his home of Hereford.
Retired Colour Sergeant Daz Dugan, who served in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – known as the Tigers – is one of Danny’s pals.
The 44-year-old said: ‘The Tigers, 2PWRR, 1PWRR and now the two reserve battalions are all one big family. You’ve got people that don’t even know him but they have come because they are part of our family.
‘We’re here as a family to support and find him.
‘Within the first 48 hours is the most important time to find a person on the critical list that he is on.
‘We’re running out of time.’
The hunt resumed today from the HQ of 4PWRR – the Tiger’s newest reserve battalion based in Tudor Crescent, Cosham.
In a plea to Danny, Daz – of Bognor – said: ‘We all love you and we want you back as part of our family.
‘There are agencies out there that can help you.
‘If you need a house, we’ll get you a house, if you money then we’ll all chip in and give you money because that’s what we do as a family.
‘If he needs anything else – like bills being paid off – then we will get that done and dusted.’
Danny is white, 6ft, of medium build and with very short shaven hair.
He was last seen wearing a beige baseball cap, dark blue puffa jacket, blue jeans and Asics trainers.
He is heavily tattooed on both arms and his back. One of his legs is fully tattooed with geometrical designs and ‘Blues Brothers’ just above his left ankle.
Those who may have seen him are urged to call 101 or report online quoting serial 134 of 20/5.
If he requires medical treatment or is in danger, call 999 immediately.