Amber Victoria Palm (17)

‘I just want to know she’s safe’ - mother's plea

CONCERN Teenage girl went missing in Paris a month ago

A Cavan-based family are distraught following the disappearance of their daughter while on holiday in Paris last month.

Seventeen year old Amber Victoria Palm was staying in Disney’s Hotel Sante Fe in Coupvrey, France, with her parents and younger brother before she went missing on August 7, the final day of their trip.

She’s believed to be with a male, also aged 17, who friends said she had been talking to online for a number of weeks previous to her disappearance.

Speaking to the Celt about their ordeal, her mother Mactalene said: “We’re trying to keep strong, it has been hard. Me and her were close. I just want to know she’s safe. I want my baby girl home. She’s still a minor, she’s my baby girl.”

The Palm family are originally from South Africa with Italian roots and have been living in Castlerahan for the past year. Amber had been due to return to St Oliver Post Primary in Oldcastle to begin her Leaving Cert year.

Mactalene says her nine-year-old son has also been struggling since his sister’s disappearance.

“He says, ‘Mummy I miss my sister, I just want her home!’ How do I explain something like that to my son?” asks her mother.

Mactalene described the night before Amber’s disappearance as normal.

She and her husband Dinnis had gone to Disneyland to watch the light parade, while both Amber and her younger brother decided to stay in the hotel.

“When we got home they were both in the room playing and on their phones watching TV. She asked us what were our plans for tomorrow?”

The family agreed to have an early night and go for breakfast the next morning and return to the hotel for around 2pm in order to catch the shuttle bus back to the airport for their flight home to Ireland.

Dinnis woke at about 3am feeling unwell. He found the bathroom door closed and believed his daughter was inside.

Mactalene takes up the story: “I got up to knock on the door of the bathroom and ask her how long she was going to be. So I knocked on the door and there was no answer. I opened the door and obviously she wasn’t there.”

Panic stricken, the family began to search the hotel.

“We went around the hotel looking for her, couldn’t find her.

Next to our hotel where we were staying there was a petrol station and I went to the petrol station to see maybe she went to the shop and she wasn’t there.”

The family then went to the police station to report her child missing. Later on that afternoon CCTV footage from the hotel gates showed Amber walking out of the hotel with a bag on her back and meeting a guy at the gate.

“We only got the footage the next day off the petrol station where she walked up to his car, got in the door and left,” says a puzzled Mactalene.

The concerned mother says she has no idea who this man was. However, having spoken to some of Amber’s friends since, they learned she had been talking to him online for quite a while.

“They were saying they met online on some chat site. They say they were talking for a while, for weeks.

“According to them he’s 17 and a half. He’s not from France. They say he came over to France on the 6th of August. He lives in Northern Ireland,” said Mactalene of the scant detail.

One friend said Amber had revealed her plans to meet with the male, however she assumed she was joking.

“My daughter is a jokey person so she didn’t think it was serious.”

Amber made brief contact with some of her friends in the days following her disappearance, however no contact has been made since August 10. She had not been active on her social media accounts since.

“Her friends obviously told her she must come in contact with me, and she said ‘we will’, things like that.”

Amber has not made contact with her family since her disappearance.

“Another friend asked ‘who’s the guy? Who’s she with?’ and she said ‘I can’t say’,” said her worried mother.

Immediately following her disappearance, a member of staff from the Disney Hotel assisted the Palm family with translation while speaking to the French police.

They then had to fly home in order to retrieve Amber’s bank details and phone’s serial number to assist the French authorities with their investigation. Mactalene says they have received very little information from the police since.

The Anglo-Celt contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland regarding Amber’s case. However, a spokesperson confirmed the Department is not required to help any Irish residents who are not Irish citizens.

A similar “it’s out of our hands” answer was given by the South African Embassy in Ireland, alleges Mactalene.

The Garda Press Office was also contacted by this newspaper. A spokesperson explained that An Garda Siochána “cannot conduct a missing person investigation for someone who has gone missing outside of this jurisdiction. In such a case, AGS may provide assistance to authorities in another jurisdiction via Interpol”.

Interpol and the Italian Embassy in Ireland were both also contacted for information. However neither had not responded at the time of going to print.

The Palm family received a similar response from Government bodies in Ireland, France, South Africa and Italy while looking for help.

“We tried the Italian Embassy in France and they said, because we’re from Ireland, we must phone Irish Embassies.

“We tried to phone Ireland and they said they can’t help us because it didn’t happen in Ireland, we need to speak to the French side.

“We tried phoning the South African Embassy in France, but they only work three days and, of those three days, they only work three hours a week. It’s a bit difficult getting hold of them.

“In the Italian Embassy [in France], they either speak in Italian or they speak French. So we can’t talk to them.”

Mactalene expressed her gratitude to the local gardaí in Ireland who she says have been helping her family in any ways they can, physically and emotionally.

The gardaí explained the family should put pressure on the embassies in each country so the French police “could do something more”.

“It’s a month now, it’s four weeks. I think they see it like it’s not a major case because she went willingly with a guy, that’s what they’re saying.”

While Mactalene accepts there is a possibility Amber and the man she left with simply ran away together, the ‘not knowing’ is causing her to fear the worst.

“He’s been talking to her for a long time on chat, you don’t know if he groomed her... Maybe she thought this guy is going to do everything for me and he took her and she went with him. These are the things that go through my head. With human trafficking and everything that goes on, you don’t know...”

The family are appealing to anyone with information on Amber’s whereabouts to contact your local garda station.