International campaign launched by Burnley born parents of man missing in Syria for over a month
The Burnley born parents of a man who disappeared without trace in Syria in December have launched an international campaign to find their son.
Kristian Baxter has not been heard from since he travelled to Syria via Lebanon on his Canadian passport in November.
Although was born in Canada, Kristian (44) is passionate about Burnley, the hometown of his parents, Andrea Leclair and Ken Baxter.
Kristian has visited the town regularly since he was a child and set up a facebook page devoted to the town.
Burnley Lancashire Now and Then, now has over 16,000 members.
Andrea, who grew up in Burnley Wood and attended St Mary's RC Primary and the former St Hilda's High schools, said Kristian "loved everything" connected to Burnley and was very proud of the success of the facebook page.
Andrea who lives in Nanaimo, British Columbia, said: "We moved to Canada in 1974 when Kristian was a year old but we always used to come back to visit Burnley.
"When Kristian grew up he travelled and lived in London for many years and he would visit Burnley a lot at that time, frequenting the library for historic information.
"Even though he wasn't born in Burnley he always had an affinity for it and he is an experienced traveller."
Andrea has set up a gofundmepage to help her bring her son home and so far it has raised around $4,000 Canadian dollars.
She added: " Visiting Syria was meant to be an opportunity of a lifetime for Kristian, a chance to see many historical sites such as the Krak des Chevaliers, the nineth century crusader castle and UNESCO World heritage site.
"And while a visit to Syria might seem imprudent to some, the Syrian government has been encouraging tourism now that the civil war has largely drawn to a close. "
Andrea added that Kristian was also in "good hands" as he travelled there with his girlfriend's brother-in-law who often returns to the village of Amar al-Husn-one of several Christian villages in Syria-to help manage his father’s land.
But the nightmare began when Kristian arrived in Lebanon and his luggage was delayed.
Andrea said: "Kristian met with a friend who invited him and proceeded by car over the border to the village of Amar.
"The driver told Kristian that he would go and collect his delayed bag once it arrived in Beirut.
"Kristian’s communications to me and on Facebook indicate he was meeting many locals in Amar and being spoiled by the Syrian hospitality and greatly enjoyed his visit to the castle.
"When his bag arrived in Beirut, the driver transporting it was detained at the Syrian border because it contained a metal detector."
Andrea said that as soon as Kristian heard what had happened to the driver, he went to the Syrian authorities and explained that the bag and metal detector was his and just for him to use as part of his hobby as a "history buff" and the driver should be released.
She added: " He was told not to worry and that he was a guest in their country and to go and enjoy his vacation.
"Kristian returned to the family he was staying with but several days passed and the driver was still not released.
"Kristian could have left the country and it was suggested that he do so, however, he could not consciously leave knowing that the driver was being detained because of the content of his bag.
"He is such a caring person and well liked wherever he goes because of his personality. If he hadn't gone back to help the driver he would have been home safe and sound."
Kristian went back to Homs where the driver was being detained, with only his passport and a limited amount of cash, to inquire about the driver and Kristian found himself detained along with the driver.
And while the driver was released from detention in Homs around January 6th Kristian was transported to Damascus and his family have not heard from him since Saturday, December 1st, when his travel visa to Syria expired.
Kristian's father, Ken Baxter, who lives in Sussex, said: "Since he arrived there we have not heard from Kristian and we have no idea if he has been arrested or why he is being detained.
"Global Affairs Canada, which is the equivalent of the Foreign Office, is doing their best to assist us but with no diplomatic relations with Syria it is proving difficult to find answers.
"We are doing everything we can to find Kristian and and have him set free.
"To do so means engaging with Syrian lawyers and that costs money."
The situation has been complicated by the fact that Canada severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012, expelling its diplomats and closing the embassy.
A Global Affairs Canada spokesman said: "Consular services are being provided to the family and to the individual, to the limited extent possible.
"Given the security situation on the ground, the Government of Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited."
Ken has today contacted the Foreign Office in London and pleaded for help to find Kristian and bring him home.
He said: "They have now taken my details and have promised to get back to me so that is a hopeful sign."
The heartbreaking story has been covered by the The Canadian Press newspaper and both Andrea and Ken are hoping that increased media coverage of their son's plight will help.
Ken added: "Andrea is preparing to fly over to Syria to bring Kristian home as he will not be in a fit state to travel.
"We just want to bring him home."
To donate to the fund for Kristian click here.