Family's fears grow for missing South African

Woman vanished after witnesses saw her being beaten in Dubai 12 days ago. Police question Briton.

DUBAI-AUGUST 31,2008 - Kurt Winter hold a leaflet of her missing sister Kerry carol Winter at Arabian Ranches,Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PV missing3.JPG
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DUBAI // For the past two weeks Kurt Winter has thought of nothing but finding his missing sister. Every telephone call or lead has raised his hopes that this could be the one that ends his family's agony and gives them the news, good or bad, of his sister's whereabouts. But until that happens the sense of helplessness is overwhelming. Kerry Winter has not been seen since Aug 20, when witnesses say they saw her during the evening being savagely beaten with a baseball bat outside her rented villa in Al Barsha and dragged bleeding into her car. She has not been seen or heard from since. Police are holding a man, a British national, who is being questioned about the case, the family say. "We've got to prepare ourselves for the worst, of course, but we're desperately hoping that Kerry is alive," Mr Winter said yesterday. "The last few days have been an absolute emotional roller coaster for us and the rest of the family, but we have to remain strong for each other. "I believe it's only a matter of time before they find an important clue that will lead us to my sister." Mr Winter, 41, flew 4,000 miles from South Africa to Dubai with Ms Winter's nephew, David Giles, to carry out their own search and have vowed not to leave until they learn of her fate. As the hunt for Ms Winter enters its 12th day today, Mr Winter is carrying on with the grim routine he has followed since arriving from Johannesburg last week with Mr Giles. Every day he goes to the Bur Dubai police station to ask for an update and check if they have made any breakthroughs in the case. Then the two men scour the streets looking for her. They search shopping mall car parks hoping to find her silver Ford Explorer with Dubai registration 86914 which has not been seen since her disappearance, and have visited countless hospitals and medical centres in the hope she might be there receiving treatment. Their search has led them to Ms Winter's friends and colleagues, and in a bid to enlist the public's help they have set up a group on the social networking website Facebook and posted an advert on appealing for people to come forward with any information they have. So far their efforts have been fruitless. No solid leads have emerged on the missing woman's location or last known movements. Mr Winter admitted his family was so desperate for clues that they had enlisted the help of a clairvoyant before flying to Dubai. The psychic medium told them he believed Ms Winter was alive, but badly injured. After Ms Winter went missing, the family tried to contact her and received some text messages back, which they now believe were not sent from her. Back in Johannesburg, her distraught mother, Carol, can only sit and wait for news. "My poor mum has taken this so badly. She keeps breaking down in tears," said Mr Winter. "She's 60 years old, and just had a triple bypass heart operation. This is all just too much for her. "We won't give up this hunt until we find my sister. For me to go back to Johannesburg and say to my mum that I couldn't find Kerry is just unthinkable." A senior officer from Dubai Police's Criminal Investigations Department yesterday confirmed they were investigating an allegation of assault but refused to comment further. Mr Winter said Ms Winter was wearing black trousers and a black and white top with silver buttons on the evening she disappeared, and urged anybody who may have seen her to contact him or the police. The family is also keen to urgently find two expatriate women who befriended Ms Winter recently in Dubai. They are believed to live near the beach and to have thrown an engagement party in the past month, to which they invited Ms Winter. Mr Giles, 26, said he maintained a strong belief that his aunt was still alive, possibly being nursed back to health by somebody. "I won't believe that she's not OK until I hear otherwise," he said. Ms Winter, who has been working as an events manager for International Conferences and Exhibitions, has lived in Dubai for seven years. Her brother described her as a "very private person" who enjoyed socialising once she got to know people properly. The Facebook group set up by Ms Winter's relatives - Help Us Find Kerry - has already attracted a huge amount of interest and support from Dubai's expatriate community as well as South African nationals. About 1,500 members have signed up, and more than 100 people have left messages of support.