The Russian equivalent of the FBI has opened a murder probe into the disappearance of an American student missing for almost a week in Siberia.
Colin Madsen, 25, vanished from a tourist resort guest house in the early hours of Sunday, and an intensive search by police and volunteers has found no trace of him.
Friends of the American man have been questioned using a polygraph by the Russian Investigative Committee, responsible for investigating serious crime.
The murder probe has been launched despite there being so far ‘no hard evidence that he was killed,’ reported The Siberian Times.
‘During the preliminary check, we have not confirmed that the missing young man was about to leave the resort village and his friends,’ said a statement from the local branch of the committee in the mainly Buddhist Republic of Buryatia in southern Siberia.
‘These and other established facts indicate that a crime may have been committed against him.
‘Therefore, Tunkinsky Interdistrict Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee in the Republic of Buryatia opened a criminal case on the grounds of a crime under Part. 1, Art. 105 of the Criminal Code (Murder).’
A Russian friend of Madsen revealed he was among those questioned using a polygraph, while forensic experts also scoured the guest house for traces of blood.
‘They came yesterday, and checked the biological traces,’ said Vlad Rasputin, 20.
He claimed the police specialists ‘ have not found anything’.
‘They are interrogating all us with a polygraph,’ he said.
The Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM) is using drones to search the area around Arshan, which includes the Peak of Love, a mountain that Madsen and his friends had been due to start climbing two hours after he disappeared.
‘We plan to involve additional equipment – Phantom-3 unmanned aerial vehicles,’ said an EMERCOM source.
‘With their help will be checked the forest, ravines, the bed of the Kyngarga River and other places which are hard to reach.’
A Russian group is seeking to raise cash for the search, reported siberiantimes.com which gave details of how to make donations.
Russian friends Madsen, from Jefferson City, Missouri, say he was known to venture out at night in Irkutsk, where he studied at a Russian linguistics university.
But when he disappeared he did not take his cellphone or his coat despite subzero temperatures.
He and his friends had agreed to rise at 5am to climb the 2,412-metre high Peak of Love (7,913 feet), a mysterious mountain in the Eastern Sayan range.
Even local shamans who blame tourists for getting into trouble because they do not respect ancient traditions and honour ‘sacred’ sites are helping with the search.
Madsen’s mother has also left Jefferson City, MI, to be in the remote region of southern Siberia, close to the border with Mongolia.
The mountain he and his friends had come to climb is a landmark which is close to Arshan, where Madsen had been staying.
Madsen, a postgraduate student, had come to the thermal tourist resort with friends, including another American, from the university.