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VANISHED; EXCLUSIVE Frances hasn't been seen for seven days and her mobile's off She didn't turn up for her leaving party or catch flight home Cops probe report she lost all her money in a casino.. and then.


A HUGE search was last night taking place for a British woman backpacker who vanished the day before she was due to fly home.

Frances Embleton, 24, disappeared after reportedly blowing all her money in a casino.

Worried pals contacted police after she failed to turn up at her own farewell party in Sydney.

Her dad Norman said last night: "I'm frantic with worry. We're a close and loving family and it's totally out of character for her to vanish like this."

Law graduate Frances has now been missing for seven days. Her mobile phone has been switched off.

Norman, Frances has 57, added that contacted family back home every couple of days during her year-long Australian adventure.

He said: "She has emailed several times a week and called at least once a week. But we haven't heard from her since last Friday.

"I'm by the phone 24 hours a day waiting for her or the police to call.

"I first heard there was a problem was when one of her friends called me to say she hadn't turned up at her farewell party.

"The friend was very worried because Frances had been really looking forward to it.

"There were so many people there - all the friends she had made in Australia. That is when I started to worry because there is no way she would normally miss something like that."

Yesterday it emerged that Frances paid a deposit of around pounds 50 for a flight home on a Thai Airlines jet on Sunday. She planned a brief stopover in Thailand before continuing the second leg of the journey to the UK. But she never got on the flight.

The last confirmed sighting of Frances was at 2pm on Saturday when she was with a friend in Sydney. But police yesterday revealed a witness had reported that a blonde fitting her description chatted to his pals in a bar called the Three Wise Monkeys about two hours later.

The man told police she had asked his friends if they would buy her a drink.

He said: "They asked why. She said she had been gambling at the casino, lost all her money and was thinking of not going to her farewell party.

"She told them gambling was an addiction. She said she had put a deposit down for her flight home but hadn't paid for the whole ticket. My friends told me she was down, she seemed depressed. But she wasn't crying or anything like that."

The man said his friends tried to calm her and persuade her to go to the party which was in a different Sydney bar at 7pm.

He added: "She was still in the pub when I got there about 5pm but she wasn't talking to my pals anymore."

Dad Norman, of Harpenden, Herts, said he was stunned when police told him about it. He added: "It was a shock when I heard that. She is not a gambler. But if she did then I can understand she would be in a state of shock. "But it wouldn't explain why she hasn't got in touch. in touch.

"If she has a problem she knows she can come to me."

Norman, a widower, said Frances also regularly spoke to sisters Laura, 27, and Sally, 31.

He added: "She is very close to her sisters and would call them if she was in trouble - if she could." Frances's last contact with her family came last Friday when she rang Laura.

Last night Laura said: "She told me 'I can't wait to come home, I miss you so much.'

"Now I'm going out of my mind with worry. I've tried to call her but her phone is going straight to voicemail. I want to hear her voice again so badly."

Police are studying CCTV footage at Sydney's Star City Casino, where Frances is believed to have lost her money on Friday night. Her friends have joined officers in the search - checking her favourite hang-outs across the city. They have visited hostels, friends' houses, bars, pubs, clubs and shops.

Officers are also checking whether she has used her credit card in the past week.

Norman, a building firm boss, said: "The police are keeping me updated on a daily basis.

"But I feel so helpless with her being on the other side of the world. I am trying to be positive but I am very concerned."

And in a direct appeal to his daughter, he added: "If you read this Frances I beg you to call me - I love you very much."

Frances graduated from Birmingham University with a 2:1 in law and went on to complete her bar exams at London's School of Law.

She flew out to Australia with two old school friends 12 months ago for a gap year.

She planned to become a solicitor when she returned.

A Sydney police spokesman said the gambling loss was the main line of inquiry they were pursuing.

Frances had been living in the Sydney suburb of Cremorne.

She is thought to have been single although police say she has an Australian ex-boyfriend.


CASINO: Frances lost money here before she disappeared' RIDDLE: Backpacker Frances' DESPAIR: Dad Norman with graduation pic
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2006
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