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1982: Mark Thatcher found safe and well

The prime minister's son, Mark Thatcher, is on his way home after being missing in the Sahara for six days.

The 29-year-old and two team-mates were taking part in the Paris-Dakar rally when they lost their way and the car they were driving broke down.

They were last seen on 10 January - but not reported missing until some time later.

A massive search was launched, involving rescuers from four different countries, spotter planes and helicopters. Mark's father, Denis, flew out to Algeria to join the hunt. Mark, his co-driver, Frenchwoman Charlotte Verney, and a mechanic, known simply as Jackie, were eventually spotted yesterday from the air.


"It's all all right now "

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

They were running short of food but still had plenty of drinking water.

The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on hearing the news, said: "It's all all right now and life to me looks totally different personally from what it did two days ago. It puts your other personal worries into perspective."

Family reunion

Mark was reunited with his father, Denis, in the southern Algerian town of Tamanrasset.

He told reporters he'd been more worried about his family than himself: "If you're in London and somebody else is in the middle of the Sahara, one tends to conjure up slightly more imaginative pictures of what is going on than what actually happened."

Denis Thatcher said he had been very impressed with the way the search had been handled: "I found an enormously efficient organisation under the command of a remarkable soldier who quite clearly knew what he was about.

"At least for the first four to six hours I was there, he was concerned with raising my morale and confidence. He said straight away we are going to find him." .

Mark and his father are being flown back to the UK in the Algerian presidential plane.

In Context
It was Mark Thatcher's first Paris-Dakar rally, and Mrs Thatcher said afterwards she hoped it would be his last.

His car was spotted by a C13Q Hercules search plane, belonging to the Algerian army. He was 50km (31 miles) off the route.

The Thatcher team had been travelling in convoy with two other cars but became separated after stopping to repair a steering arm.

At dusk - lost and now also with a shattered rear axle casing - they set up camp and stopped to wait for help.


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