A Hartlepool man who is still missing in the wake of twin terror attacks in Brussels is feared to have boarded a Metro train blown up in the horror suicide bombing - after reassuring a relative he was ‘fine and safe’ after the city’s airport was targeted.
David Dixon - an IT programmer originally from the town but now living in the Belgian capital - was unaware the city was under attack until being contacted by his worried aunt.
She sent him a text message from her home in County Durham asking if he was OK after hearing about the airport explosions on Tuesday morning - but his family fear he got on the Metro soon after.
Ann Dixon told the Daily Telegraph: “He travelled into Brussels on the Metro every day and after we’d texted he must have gone straight out and got on the Metro that was attacked. It was only an hour later when that bomb went off”
The father of one replied and told her he was safe, but Mrs Dixon’s relief swiftly turned to anguish just over an hour later after terrorists struck at the Maalbeck underground station.
Mr Dixon’s aunt said: “As soon as I heard on the news about the explosion at the airport I thought of David and I texted him to ask whether he was alright.
“It was a relief when he texted back soon afterwards and said he was safe and fine.
“He said he hadn’t even realised that there had been bombs going off at the airport, I guess it’s because he was getting ready to go to work.
“He told me I was the first person who had let him know. He travelled into Brussels on the Metro every day and after we’d texted he must have gone straight out and got on the Metro that was attacked.
“It was only an hour later when that bomb went off.”
She says Mr Dixon’s desperately concerned family can now only ‘hope and wait’ for news.
Mrs Dixon added: “Later in the morning my brother-in-law got in touch to say that the Metro had been attacked and that David’s brother hadn’t been able to get in touch with him.
“No one has heard anything from him since and of course we are desperately worried. Our hope is that he’s injured and has been taken to hospital and that he’s going to be OK.
“He has lived in Brussels for several years, more than 10 years and had been with Charlotte since they met at university and they have a little boy called Henry who is only seven.
“For his sake and everyone else’s we are hoping to hear some positive news but all we can do is wait and hope.”
The partner of Mr Dixon has been carrying out a ‘heartbreaking’ search of the city’s hospitals in the hope of finding him, his sister has said.
Friends on social media have been appealing for information on his whereabouts and asking anyone with information to contact his partner Charlotte Sutcliffe.
Ms Sutcliffe’s sister Marie told BBC Radio 4 programme that Charlotte had been round hospitals in the hope of finding him, while friends were putting out messages on social media asking for anyone who has seen him to contact her.
“Understandably she is very, very distressed,” said Marie.
“Not everybody has been identified yet, of the injured, so it’s waiting for that process to happen. Everybody is struggling with communication there, or they were yesterday, with phones being down and there being a lockdown.”
Marie added: “She’s been on social media with friends helping to put out the message that he is still missing. She has been involved with the British consulate. When she was at the hospital, she had an interview with the police so they’ve got all the details now.
“It’s just waiting. It’s heartbreaking and very worrying.”
Charlotte, originally from Creswell in Nottinghamshire, has a young son with Mr Dixon, said Marie.
She last spoke to her partner “yesterday morning before he went off to work” and had been unable to get through to his mobile phone since the bombings.
“There’s no phone network. I’ve tried to ring him and other people have,” said Marie, who is due to travel to Brussels to support her sister.
She said family and friends of Mr Dixon were hoping “that she’ll find out from a hospital or through the police that he is safe and being helped”.
Simon Hartley-Jones, who described himself as a “very good friend” of Mr Dixon, said he was missing and asked his followers to retweet the appeal to find him.
He tweeted a photo of Mr Dixon, who wears glasses and has been pictured with short grey hair, captioned: “He was in the metro system, he didn’t arrive to his office and we still haven’t reached him.”
Photos of Mr Dixon, including one of him with a little boy, were also circulated on social media.
His Facebook page shows that he studied economics at Newcastle University and used to work for British Airways.
Cleveland Police say they are offering ‘support’ to Mr Dixon’s family during the distressing time.
A Cleveland Police spokesman said: “Cleveland Police are supporting the brother of a David Dixon who was originally from Hartlepool but has been living in Brussels for the past 15 years.
“It is believed he left home yesterday morning to take the metro but has not been seen since and it is possible he was caught up in the tragic events in the City.
“The family of Mr Dixon are being supported by Family Liaison officers.
“Police are also liaising with the Foreign Office on the matter.”