Police and emergency services in the beach town of Sedgefield, South Africa have been searching for days for a young woman from Stavanger who’s a student at the prestigious Sciences Po Toulouse in France. Marie Sæther Østbø disappeared while on a trip with fellow students and police fear she’s drowned.
The 20-year-old Østbø never returned from a walk down to the beach in Sedgefield last Wednesday evening. Her mobile phone and shoes were found on the beach along with a cap believed to have belonged to someone else.
Lengthy searches with boats and helicopters have failed to find any trace of the young woman, who reportedly went down to Myoli Beach alone to take photographs. On Monday police stated that they don’t think any criminal activity was involved in her disappearance.
State broadcaster NRK reported that winds were strong and seas were rough last Wednesday. Captain Gerry Shuttleworth said the case is now being classified as a “missing persons” case: “We can’t be sure, but it’s most probable she’s in the sea. So far we have no indication anything criminal has occurred.” He said there are several reasons that her body hasn’t been found, including strong currents in the area, many rocky areas and sharks.
Sæther’s disappearance has prompted strong reaction in the area, also from the local mayor. “I have three children myself,” Eleanore Bouw-Spies told NRK. “On behalf of myself and everyone here, we are terribly sorry about this.” The search was due to resume on Tuesday, while her fellow students were gathering on Thursday with university officials who offered to postpone exams because of the difficult situation.