You may not have heard the name Lars Mittank before, but if you’re an amateur sleuth you’ll know what we’re talking about.
That’s because Lars [above] is commonly referred to as “the Most Famous Missing Person on YouTube”, and the mystery of his disappearance has been the source of much online chatter and debate.
We’ll rewind to July 8, 2014, to get the ball rolling, and hand over to Mel Magazine:
…just after sunrise, 28-year-old Lars Mittank arrived at an airport in Bulgaria to catch his flight home to Germany. He stepped out of a taxi, picked up his bags and walked into the departures hall.
Then, in a flash, he ran out of the terminal, without his luggage, as if someone, or something, were chasing him. He looked frightened, paranoid and possessed. He stopped at the main entrance for a brief second before he ran across the parking lot, climbed over an 8-foot barbed-wire fence and disappeared into the woods and into the blank.
He was never seen again.
Every single detail of this footage has been analysed in great detail, so here’s what you have to work with:
Admit it, you’re intrigued. When you consider what came before he fled for no apparent reason, the plot only thickens.
Mittank was on holiday with five other mates, all their late 20s, at a beach resort that sprawls along Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast. Those mates say they saw no sign of odd behaviour on the holiday, except for the day before he was due to fly.
Having ruptured his eardrum during a punch-up outside a bar with some rival German football fans a few days earlier, Lars was worried about what the cabin pressure would do to his ailment.
He told his friends, who had checked out of the hotel at noon, to go on without him, and found a room at a hotel close to the airport.
Then things got weird:
He called his mom from his room. He was whispering, acting strangely. He told her to cancel his bank cards. He said he was being followed. He was looking for a place to hide. Then he hung up…
Later that night, he texted her about his antibiotics, which doctors routinely prescribe for ear infections: “What is Cefuroxime 500?”
…After Mittank disappeared, the police checked the hotel’s security cameras. They found him pacing up and down the foyer, looking out the window, hiding in the elevator. At 1 a.m., he left the hotel for an hour, before returning to his room. No one knows where he went.
When dawn broke, he called his mom again. He said the people who were chasing him were getting close…
At that point he headed to the airport, and you’ve seen what happened next.
In December 2016 the case looked to have been solved, after police in Porto Velho, Brazil, found a man walking along the highway, barefoot.
He looked very similar to Mittank, but it turned out to be Anton Pilipa, a Canadian humanitarian worker who went missing five years earlier.
So where does this leave us today?
Nearly four years since his disappearance, Mittank is maybe the most famous missing person on YouTube…
In the comment sections, speculation swirls. “He planned his disappearance. I would bet money on it,” one person writes. “He swallowed drugs and freaked out because he was scared of getting caught. He later died from an overdose,” theorizes [sic] another…
There are more sinister theories, too. In large part because it happened in Bulgaria, which has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the European Union. People are forced into slavery, prostitution and drug smuggling. Some have their organs removed, against their will. “I think if he is alive, then he’s either being tortured or was sold as a sex slave,” another commenter guesses. “It’s definitely not anything good, and he would be better off dead if that were the case. I feel really bad for his mother. I can’t imagine losing my boy and not having closure.”
If you’re keen to dig a little deeper, here’s one of the best videos doing the rounds:
There’s even a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/findetlarsmittank/, with more than 29 000 followers:
There, they, too, trade theories and share missing-person flyers in different languages — primarily, German, Bulgarian and English. And while every one of them has a different opinion on what happened to Mittank, they share a common goal — to bring him home.
Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen, but it won’t stop people from trying.
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