-- Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

 Over twenty years ago, back in 1996, Dr. Carlos Sanchez Ortiz de Salazar disappeared without a trace from his hometown, Cazalla de la Sierra, in Spain. For decades, his case remained unsolved, until 2015, when two mushroom pickers made a shocking discovery in the woods of Italy, hundreds of miles away from where the doctor went missing.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Although the foragers were only out looking for fungi, they ended up stumbling across an unexpected link to Salazar himself.


Tens Of Thousands of People Are Registered Missing In The United States

There are many, many missing people in the country, but exactly how many?

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Todd Matthews, a representative of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, spoke with USA Today, reporting that, on any given day, there are as many as 90,000 missing people in the United States, with adults over 18 years old making up 60 percent of that figure, and the rest being children.


How Do People Disappear?

How do these people vanish without anyone knowing what has happened to them?  There are plenty of potential causes - some people may suffer from a mental illness and lose parts of their memory, causing them to forget where they live, or even who they are.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Some might be fleeing abuse at home, and others may simply wish to recreate themselves somewhere else with a new identity.


Some Celebrities Have Had Loved Ones Go Missing

Anybody can experience someone going missing suddenly from their lives - Olivia Newton-John is one of them.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Since the release of her debut solo album, If Not For You, in 1971, the singer and actress has been well-known.  Her breakthrough success came in 1978 when she starred as John Travolta’s love interest, Sandy Olsson, in the hit movie, Grease.


Her Boyfriend Went Missing

In 2005, Olivia Newton-John was in the news for something far different from her on-screen performances and musical talent.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

That summer, her long-term boyfriend of almost a decade, Patrick McDermott, vanished suddenly. The 48-year-old cameraman had set off on June 30 for an overnight fishing trip but never came back home.


The Authorities Got Involved

Roughly a week after McDermott went missing, his family discovered his car parked near the San Pedro harbor in California, the same place from which he had departed on his expedition.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

By August 10, the police were asking the public for any information on his whereabouts, and the authorities had begun to search the water for any clues.


They Found No Sign Of McDermott

Despite their best efforts, the Coast Guard found no sign of McDermott’s body, and roughly three years after his disappearance concluded that he had most likely drowned at sea.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

As time passed, however, more details about McDermott’s life began to surface, and some of this information made people start to doubt whether he was truly dead, or had vanished deliberately.


Strange Facts Emerged

One of the weird parts of the story is that McDermott owed over $8,000 in child support to Yvette Nipar, his former spouse and that in the event of his death, his son, Chance, would receive a $100,000 life insurance payout.

Another curious fact was that there were supposedly over 20 other people on the cameraman’s fishing trip, yet none of them witnessed him fall off the boat.


Dateline NBC Gets Involved

The story gained so much attention over the next few years that, in 2010, producers of the Dateline NBC television show decided they wanted to solve the mystery of McDermott’s disappearance.  

They hired private investigators to try and find the missing man and, using McDermott’s given name, Kim; they set to work. Surprisingly, the investigators claimed to have found something.


Was McDermott Laying Low In Mexico?

According to Dateline, their investigators had supposedly found McDermott hiding out in Peurto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

Apparently, he had been using his given name, Patrick Kim, as they had suspected. The shows’ principal investigator, Philip Klein, claimed that McDermott had asked his legal team to share a message with the world.


Apparently, McDermott Just Wanted To Be Left Alone

At a press conference, Klein announced that “according to his lawyers, Mr. McDermott’s wishes are that he does not want the media or investigators to continue to “hound” him.”

 Nipar, McDermott’s ex-wife, did not think this was the case. She was adamant of the opposite and strongly believed that her ex-husband had died out at sea.


Klein Was Accused Of Lying For Publicity

When Philip Klein, the lead investigator into McDermott’s disappearance, wrote a book on the case called “Lost At Sea,” Nipar wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, to insist he remove it from his online store.

Nipar told PerthNow, a news and entertainment website based in Australia, that she believed Klein was “just trying to get famous off the back of a horrible tragedy.”


The Investigations Continued

Eventually, the investigation into McDermott’s whereabouts began to die down, but not for long.  In 2016, another publication decided to pick up the story - Women’s Day - and they were determined to find answers.

The Australian magazine’s investigator supposedly found McDermott living in Mexico, in a town called Sayulita, with his new lover, going on to say, “McDermott’s likely working in the yachting business down there, for a well-known local family.”


Olivia Newton-John Speaks Out

With the event back in the spotlight, Newton-John made comments on her ex-boyfriend’s disappearance.

She had evidently moved on since the incident, having married John Easterling in 2008, but made it clear that she had grieved her loss and was greatly affected by his disappearance.


The Actress Has Made Peace With What Happened

By the time investigators claimed to have found out exactly where in Mexico McDermott was hiding, Newton-John explained that she had made peace with the fact it was possible her former partner had vanished deliberately.

She said to 60 Minutes Australia, “I suppose it’s only human to wonder, but it’s just one of those things in your life you have to accept and let go of.”


One Magazine Claims To Have A Photo Of McDermott

In 2018, an Australian weekly magazine called New Idea published a long-awaited photograph that supposedly showed McDermott relaxing in his new Mexican home of Sayulita, claiming it was proof that he had faked his own demise.

The issue was that the man in the photograph was actually Wes Stobbe, a bar owner from Canada who was constructing a house in the small town.


Stobbe Found The Story Hilarious

When interviewed by The Brandon Sun, Stobbe said that he “cracked up with laughter” when he noticed the photograph in the magazine.

His wife also thought it was amusing that the tabloid had claimed her to be McDermott’s “German mistress.” Obviously, none of it was the truth.


The Stories Never Bothered The Locals

The people who are familiar with Sayulita's claim that the stories surrounding McDermott’s disappearance have never really concerned the locals, so we may never know for sure if he’s living there.

“The local people weren’t interested in any of it,” explained Stefan Brown, an American who spends his winters in Mexico, “Everyday life just continues without much drama.”


Sometimes Our Questions Do Get Answered

On some occasions, those who have had loved ones disappear do find answers.  In 1996, Carlos Sanchez Ortiz de Salazar was only 26 years old, and a doctor who studied both medicine and psychology.

He was multi-lingual and well-liked, and it appeared that he was headed to a successful future.


Things Were Not As They Seemed

Sotero Martin, the mayor of Cazalla de la Sierra, Sanchez’ Spanish hometown, explained to La Razón that the boy was very academic.

“Despite being a fairly introverted young man, he was responsible and always well-mannered,” the man went on to say. However, it appears that young Salazar had a darker side and that he was struggling with severe depression around the time he went missing.


Things Looked Bleak For Salazar’s Family

The mayor went on to say, “Salazar left behind friends, family, and his fellow students, and his mysterious disappearance had a big effect on his family, who grieved for a long time.”

By 2010, most of the young man’s family had given up on the idea of him ever coming back home, and the Spanish authorities officially registered him as “presumed dead.”


The Mystery of Salazar’s Disappearance Didn’t Stop There

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the end of Salazar’s tale.  Roughly five years after the young Spaniard had been declared dead, there was a new development in the case on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

In Italy, where this development occurred, the majority of the population is based around urban centers, meaning rural regions are generally overlooked. Because of this, the area of woodland in these parts has been increasing.


Much Of Italy Is Covered In Forest

According to a report from the National Inventory of Forests, by the year 2014, as much as one-third of Italy was forested.

Areas of the Maremma region, located to the south of Tuscany, are included in this estimation, and their dense foliage and hills have created excellent habitat for both deer and wild boar.


Maremma Is Also A Popular Destination For Foragers

The woodland in this region is also a firm favorite of foragers hunting for various fungi, and they regularly research the species of mushrooms that can be eaten safely, before venturing out into the forest to collect them.

It was this hobby that led to a couple of mushroom foragers visiting the woodlands around Tuscany in November 2015.


The Foragers Made A Strange Discovery In The Woods

After a few days of heavy rain, the Italian pair had entered the forest, reported The Local Spain news network, but didn’t have much fortune when it came to finding mushrooms along the marked footpaths.

Deciding to break off from the beaten track, they pushed deeper into the woods, where they found trash spread around the area, among empty plastic bottles.


Someone Appeared To Be Living Out In The Forest

The mushroom foragers tracked the discarded items until they discovered something that came as a surprise: what appeared to be a makeshift campsite.

Cans had been hung up to collect drinkable rainwater alongside a tarpaulin rigged to provide shelter from the elements. As they were looking around, the pair saw the camp’s lone inhabitant, who, according to The Local, had “a large beard and a very dirty face.”


The Mystery Man Said His Name Was Carlos

Initially, the foragers were frightened by the appearance of the unusual man living in the woods, and they quickly ran away; however, they later returned with a forest ranger.  

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

When they came back, the man came over to the group and greeted them. He was reported as introducing himself as Carlos, going on to claim that he was originally from Spain and had been living there since 1997.  Miraculously, it would seem that this Carlos was the doctor who went missing years previously.


Nobody Could Believe How He’d Survived For So Long

The man was claiming to have survived in the forest for almost twenty years, although it was still puzzling to many how he’d managed this.  

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Some people believe he must have collected materials for his camp from some of Tuscany’s beaches, situated an hour or so away from where he was found.  It’s also possible that he would visit nearby towns and villages at night, and forage from trash cans.


The Strange Man Had Proof Of His Identity

After being discovered, the man was reported to have told the park ranger and foragers that he “didn’t want to live among people.” Now that people knew where he was, he claimed he would have to move on somewhere else.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Luckily, his unexpected visitors had the sense to ask him if he could prove his story or identity. He rummaged around for a moment and brought a torn and tattered passport - but what was the name inside? None other than Carlos Sanchez Ortiz de Salazar.


The Authorities Got Involved

While the Salazar had promised to move on from his camp, the foragers did think to take pictures of his passport so they could alert the appropriate authorities about their strange discovery.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

Not long after, attempts were made to locate Salazar’s family.


Salazar’s Family Receive News

Upon hearing that Salazar may be alive, his family traveled to Italy from Spain to search for their long lost relative who disappeared.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

If it indeed were the same man, he would be 45 years old now, and his 65-year-old mother, Amelia, told the Italian news networks that she was overjoyed when she found out he may be alive.  “It was almost like Carlos had been resurrected.”


The Family Didn’t Know What To Expect

Carlos’ mother had come to terms with the fact that finally locating her son didn’t necessarily mean he would come home with his family, or even that he wanted to have a relationship with them.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

“He’s alive,” she said, “and that’s the main thing. As his family, we respect his freedom and his wishes, but I won’t go back to Spain before I’ve been able to give him a hug, even if it’s just for a few seconds.”


The Search Began Once More

In the meantime, Olga - Salazar’s sister - expressed her gratitude for the breakthrough in her brother’s case on Twitter, writing, “I’m so grateful for this new hope that has helped lift some of the pain from our lives.”

With the family now aware of Salazar’s whereabouts, the search began again.


It Appeared That Salazar Had Stayed True To His Word

A special search team was formed to cover the area in which the foragers had discovered the missing man, and Salazar’s parents quickly joined them.

Unfortunately, it appeared that the mysterious hermit had kept his word and moved his camp to a new location, as there was no sign of him at all in the forest.


The Trail Was Going Cold

The man’s campsite lay somewhere between the villages of Scarlino and Cala Violina, claimed The Local Italy.  

The mayor of Scarlino, Marcello Stella, spoke with The Daily Telegraph, saying, “We searched the area where he had set up his shelter, but there was nothing left to be found, and nobody has a clue where he might be now.”


What He Left Behind Wasn’t Enough To Go On

Salazar’s search party did find a gigantic pile of trash, containing old shoes, plastic bottles, tarpaulin, umbrellas, buckets, and jerry cans, indicating that someone had indeed built a makeshift campsite in the area.

Whatever his real identity, there was no indication as to where the man had moved on to, and the authorities soon made the decision to call off their search.


The Search Was Called Off

The mayor of Scarlino promised that everyone would still keep an eye out for the mystery man, despite the official search having been called off.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

“All of us will continue to look out for him in the forest, but it won’t be an active effort,” Mayor Stella said, “This isn’t the council’s responsibility and, ultimately, he is making a free choice to hide.”


The Family Didn’t Want To Give Up

Despite Amelia’s promise to find her son again, Salazar’s family flew back to Spain not long after they had arrived in Italy.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

For a while, the search may have given them hope that they would see him again, but eventually, they realized how unlikely it was they could find him in almost 35 square miles of forest if he was even still in the same area.


No More Signs Of The Missing Man

Salazar’s family may have made the right decision when they gave up on their search, as The Local Italy claims that nobody has seen Salazar since the foragers’ first sighting.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

It seems that although he was found once, the mysterious man has managed to vanish without a trace once more.


Some People Are Holding Out Hope

Despite their lack of success, those who wish to find Salazar still hope he may one day be found.

Mushroom Pickers In Italy Make A Strange Discovery, 20 Years After A Doctor Mysteriously Disappeared

 The head of a prominent Italian missing persons organization, Nicodemo Gentile, told The Local Italy, “We will keep following this case to try and help Salazar’s family, and we hope that one day they may get the chance to see and hold their son who disappeared so many years ago.”


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