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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Missing monk search is called off
Father Maurus
Father Maurus was last seen on Thursday morning
An extensive search for a monk missing in the Moray area has been call off, police have said.

Father Maurus, 93, of Pluscarden Abbey near Elgin, is deaf, has poor eyesight and can become confused.

He was last seen about a mile away from the abbey on the road to the Westerton Estate at 1110 BST on Thursday.

Despite the search being called off, police are urging householders to check outhouses, garages and sheds in case the monk is ill and has taken shelter.

There has been no reported sightings of the elderly man.

Abbey founder

Officers say because of a lack of leads in the inquiry, they have been left with nowhere else to look.

About 40 police officers, including underwater search teams, had been trying to trace the monk, who helped re-establish the abbey in 1948.

After his mid-morning disappearance, Father Maurus was later spotted on the Pluscarden-Forres Road at about 1430 BST on Thursday.

He is described as being about 5ft 6in tall with grey hair and a beard. He was last seen wearing his light coloured monk's habit with the hood up and brown slip-on shoes. He also wears glasses and walks with a stoop.

Father Maurus usually sticks to routes and roads and doesn't generally go off track, but we have to keep an open mind
Chief Inspector Doug Mackenzie
The monk is known to enjoy walks in the countryside around the abbey. The road where he was last seen leads to an extensive area of forestry.

Father Maurus is the last of the original five who travelled from Gloucester to re-establish the monastery in 1948.

A fireman in his home town of Liverpool during World War II, he followed his two brothers into the religious life at the end of hostilities.

Colleagues at the monastery raised the alarm on Thursday after he failed to return from one of his regular countryside walks.

Experienced walker

Special prayers have been said for the monk, who has been at the monastery for 57 years.

Chief Inspector Doug Mackenzie of Grampian Police said: "Father Maurus usually sticks to routes and roads and doesn't generally go off track, but we have to keep an open mind.

"We're working closely with the abbey on trying to trace him.

"However, he is fit and he does walk many miles in a day."

Founded in 1230 by Alexander II, Pluscarden Abbey is the only medieval monastery in the UK still inhabited by monks and being used for its original purpose.

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