It was on Tuesday 12th January 1982 that the BBC News announced that Mark Thatcher the British Prime Minister’s son had been reported missing in the Sahara desert while taking part in an international motor race. The report said that Mark Thatcher, his co-driver Frenchwoman Charlotte Verney, and a mechanic, known simply as Jackie, were last seen two days ago near the Mali-Algerian border. They were competing in the Paris-Dakar rally.
Earlier a spokeswoman for the race’s organisers, the Paris-based Automobile Sports Association, said they had seen traces of tyre tracks near Mr Thatcher’s last known location, but that there was no sign of him now. Despite the harsh terrain and lack of reliable information the ASA remained optimistic about finding Mr Thatcher and his team soon. A massive search was launched, involving rescuers from four different countries, spotter planes and helicopters. Mark’s father, Denis, flew out to Algeria to join the hunt. Mark’s car was finally spotted by a Hercules search plane belonging to the Algerian army. He was 50km (31 miles) off the route.
On Friday 15th January 1982 the BBC announced that the Prime Minister’s son, Mark Thatcher, was on his way home after being missing in the Sahara for six days.
It was not until the end of 2012 that it was published that Margaret Thatcher had spent £1,784.80 towards the search in order to avoid a public backlash over the use of taxpayers’ money. In a telegram to the Foreign Office, one official reported this fee had almost certainly included “the liberal dispensation of drinks to all and sundry after Mark Thatcher’s arrival at hotel”.