Select It Sunday: Vincent Lamouris

This week I’m featuring eighteen-year-old Vincent Lamouris, who’s been missing for more than a decade now. Unlike with a lot of Select It Sunday cases so far, foul play isn’t indicated in Vincent’s case; in fact, he definitely ran away back in 2002 and there’s no reason to believe he’s dead now.

Vincent is from the city of Ghent in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium. He had some trouble in the past: at age sixteen, upset over his parents’ divorce, he attempted suicide by jumping off a building. He had to have some serious physical rehabilitation as well as psychiatric care, and he has surgical scars on his legs and feet and metal plates in his right leg and foot as a result of his injuries. But by the time Vincent disappeared two years later, he seemed to have recovered completely, both physically and mentally. He planned to enroll in the University of Ghent to get a degree in mathematics.

But for reasons unknown, instead of going off to the university to study, Vincent Lamouris secretly got a passport, purchased tickets to New York City, erased his computer hard drive and took off. It was January 25, 2002.

We know he arrived safely in New York and somehow managed to make it upstate — 400 miles — to Niagara Falls, where he apparently crossed over to the Canadian side and then stayed for a few days before returning to the U.S. Several days later his backpack turned up in a park in Niagara Falls. Vincent had bought a return ticket to Belgium (immigration laws required him to do before he could enter the United States) but never used it; in fact, the ticket and his passport were in his bag when it was found. There’s been no trace of him since then.

What happened to Vincent Lamouris, then?

Did his old depression raise its ugly head? Did he take his own life because of it? Well, if he did, he didn’t do it by jumping over Niagara Falls. The bodies of people who go over the falls always turn up. In fact, due to the water currents, the police know exactly when and where to expect them. (I know because I went to Niagara Falls and asked one of the people there.)

And if he planned to commit suicide, why go to New York City to do it? I have heard of people traveling thousands of miles in order to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, but the Niagara Falls (though it’s had its fair share of jumpers) is not a super-famous suicide hotspot like the GGB, and if he had jumped there his body would have been found. Even with GGB, people who travel any significant distance to jump there are quite rare; most of their suicides are locals.

Did he simply plan to take a short vacation and then return home to Belgium, but something kept him from doing so? That seems unlikely to me. All the planning involved in his trip, all the secrecy, erasing his computer hard drive, seems quite unnecessary if he only intended to be gone a few weeks.

It’s possible that he did experience a recurrence of his depression and that’s why he ran away. A lot of people who leave like that suffer from mental health issues, and I’ve said before that I find those kinds of disappearances — just walking out of life with nary a word — to be like a symbolic form of suicide.

The fact that he erased his hard drive makes me wonder if he met someone on the internet and flew to the United States to meet up with that person. If so, finding that person might be the key to finding Vincent.

Vincent, if you’re out there, call home. If you like your life now, you’re an adult and you don’t have to come back if you don’t want to. Leave an anonymous message if you want. Just let your family know you’re okay.