A DETECTIVE leading the search for a British holidaymaker missing in Crete said yesterday he fears he is dead.
Steven Cook, 20, vanished on the first night of a holiday in the resort of Malia last September.
The Liverpool University student, from Sandbach, Cheshire, became separated from his friends at the end of a bar crawl. He was later spotted asking for directions to his hotel but has not been seen since.
His family mounted high-profile appeals for help and have not given up hope of finding him alive.
But Detective Superintendent John Armstrong, the Cheshire Constabulary officer liaising with Greek police in the hunt for Mr Cook, said yesterday that he feared the worst.
He said: "Steven's family are desperate to keep the hope alive and I very much support them in holding that view.
"However, the reality of the situation that, nine months on, there has been no credible line of inquiry leading to the suggestion that Steven is still alive.
"My personal view from my analysis and experience is that Steven may well have been the victim of some sort of crime that led either directly or indirectly to his death, or that there was a set of bizarre and tragic circumstances that led to his death, for which no-one was at fault.
"I think some form of criminality is the most likely option, but I can't say that with any certainty.
"What I really want most is to find out exactly what happened to Steven, whatever that may be, so that his family can know for sure. The investigation is very much ongoing."
Mr Cook's father, 62-year-old Norman Cook, said he would continue to believe his son was alive until presented with proof to the contrary.
He said: "I know what John Armstrong believes and I can't accept it.
"We believe Steven could have been the victim of crime but still be alive, and we'll continue to believe that and keep searching until somebody proves he is no longer with us."
The family have offered a 7,000 euro (£4,800) reward for information leading to the recovery of Mr Cook.