Search widens for missing Julian Sands with phone forensics analysis

Search widens for missing Hollywood star Julian Sands: Federal agencies are drafted in to analyse mobile phone forensics as efforts to track down actor who was last seen in Californian mountains a week ago intensify

  • National and state officials are now working to help track down Julian Sands 
  • The British actor was reported missing last Friday in the Californian mountains

The search for Julian Sands has stepped up with phone forensics now being used to help locate the Hollywood star.

Federal agencies have joined the huge ongoing search to find the British actor after he was reported missing last Friday in the southern Californian mountains.

Both national and state officials are now working with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office as part of the efforts.     

But on Friday, ground crews were still unable to continue their searches, due to the risk of avalanches in the area.

Julian Sands is pictured sitting on a peak of the Weisshorn mountain in the Swiss Alps 

While authorities said there was ‘no time set’ for when these ground efforts would begin, the involvement of federal and state agencies marks a step up in the search for Sands.   

The county sheriff’s department previously revealed that pings from the actor’s phone appeared to show he had been on the move heading further into the mountainous area of Baldy Bowl on the day he was reported missing – January 13.

Police also retrieved important phone data, showing that the West Yorkshire-born actor was still on the move on Sunday – but they have not been able to pick up any signal since due to his battery running low. 

‘We are working with state and federal agencies that have cell phone forensics to assist us in pinpointing a location, but so far no new info has been developed,’ a spokesman from the department told the PA news agency. 


They show the A Room With A View star, 65, traversing the stunning 14,783ft Alpine peak while wearing a helmet and crampons, using ropes and with a rucksack strapped to his back

The department previously told PA there was still ‘no hard deadline’ and ‘no date set’ for calling off efforts.

The incident is also still being classified as a search and rescue operation. 

Mount Baldy residents noted the ‘extreme’ conditions but said they would not ‘rule anything out’ in the mission to find Sands. 

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the department also said: ‘On January 15, 2023, phone pings showed Sands to be heading to the Mount Baldy area. 

‘Additional phone pings from the cell provider were attempted but were unsuccessful, due to the lack of cell service and most likely cell phone power failure. 

‘A delayed ping through Sands’ Apple iPhone operating system, from January 14, 2023, provided a possible location on one of the trails leading to the summit of Mount Baldy. This area was checked by ground searchers and by helicopter. 

‘Ground and air searchers were unable to locate any evidence in this area that would assist in locating Mr. Sands. Because of avalanche risks and trail conditions, the ground crews were pulled off the mountain on Saturday evening. 

‘However, the search continues by helicopter and drones when the weather permits. Additional ground searches will be scheduled when the weather improves, and it is safe for our rescue crews.’

Julian, 65, was reported missing by his family after disappearing in the dangerous mountain range. He is pictured in a recent image released by his family to police to aid the search

On Thursday, Julian’s family towed his car from a car park where it was discovered during the search.

The actor’s family also released photos of him ‘doing what he loved best’ when he scaled a Swiss mountain in 2016.

The pictures, taken during an ascent of the Weisshorn peak in the Swiss Alps, were sent to his grandson Billy, before the film star vanished while attempting to climb the treacherous Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains.

They show the actor, 65, traversing the stunning 14,783ft Alpine peak while wearing a helmet and crampons, using ropes and with a rucksack strapped to his back, and sitting among the clouds on a snow-topped ledge.

Julian’s family say they are ‘extremely worried’ but are praying for his safe return, but poor weather is currently hampering the rescue mission.       

His son Henry – himself an experienced hiker – flew out to California last weekend and is now assisting with the search of Mount Baldy. 

He was joined by his siblings, Natalya and Imogen on Thursday.

Julian is believed to have still been on the move on Sunday due to phone pings obtained by officers

Henry, 37, who runs his own communications business, is understood to have retraced the route his father took – some 40-miles from Los Angeles – but was forced to abandon his efforts due to poor weather. 

A relative told MailOnline today: ‘Henry has been in the U.S since the weekend and is helping the search. The problem is that the weather is hampering rescue efforts.

‘We are extremely worried but we’re hoping that Julian will be found safe and well. We’ll be looking to see how things evolve over the next few days.’

Sands’ wife, the writer Evgenia Citkowitz, reported him missing last Friday and a huge search operation was launched with rescuers finding what they believe to be his car.

A family member also told The Independent: ‘This is how he would love to be seen, doing what he loved best – a heroic mountaineer, and thrilled to send a picture of him looking so happy to share with his beloved grandson, Billy.’

Another friend described him as ‘a Byronesque romantic and an adventurer who is drawn to the extremes of nature, relishing the freedom of mountains’.

Friend and fellow actor Charles Shaughnessy said: ‘I know he’s a physical person, and he’s in good shape. The waiting is the worst thing clearly. You just have to hold onto hope.’

Two hikers die on Mount Baldy in four weeks amid ‘extremely dangerous’ conditions

Two people have died in recent days while while attempting to scale the same mountainous area – one of the most popular trails in Los Angeles.

Crystal Paula Gonzalez, a mother-of-four described as ‘the dancing hiking queen’, is understood to have slipped and plunged 700ft down the Baldy Bowl.

A helicopter was immediately dispatched, and soon found Gonzalez ‘down on a steep and icy hillside, surrounded by numerous helpful hikers assisting in any way they could,’ according to an incident report.

On December 28, Jarret Choi, 43, from LA, was hiking the Ice House Canyon trail when he fell near the Ice House Saddle ridge line.

He was found two days later, after a search hampered by extreme weather conditions.

And on December 17, four people had to be rescued by helicopter from the mountain after icy conditions made it impossible to move.

Drones and helicopters have been deployed to the mountain range, which is 40 miles from Los Angeles, where the actor has lived in Beverly Hills since 2020.

Rescuers last night recovered a snow-covered car thought to belong to Sands, which was towed away from the area. 

It is not known if the actor would have taken a tent, but a source close to the family said he would have been ‘well equipped’ for a day’s hike. 

A source close to the family said: ‘Henry is taking a very practical approach in organising everything and getting involved.

‘I think it was just instinct for him to fly out when he heard his father was missing.’

Anxious friends continue to take to social media to pass on their well-wishes. 

All Creatures Great and Small actor Samuel West said: ‘Please, please let Julian Sands be okay. A friend and an inspiration. Awful news.’

Rufus Sewell, 55, posted: ‘God, I really hope he’s OK.’

Film producer Cassian Elwes, brother of Robin Hood star Cary and a family friend of Sands, also said: ‘I’ve known since Friday that my friend Julian Sands has been missing on mt baldy.

‘I’m devastated. A very close family friend who was an adventurer in everything he did. I’ve said many prayers.’

Meanwhile, it is not the first time the keen outdoorsman has come into trouble while hiking, having had a brush with death on the Andes in the early 1990s.

He previously recalled: ‘I was in the Andes, caught in an atrocious storm above 20,000ft with three others. 

‘We were all in a very bad way. Some guys close to us perished; we were lucky.’

His family reported him missing at 7.30pm on Friday and rescuers have now recovered a snow-covered car, which was towed away last night

Sands pictured with co-star Helena Bonham Carter on the set of A Room With A View in 1985


Officers attempted a ground search for Julian Sands (pictured left and right with his wife Evgenia Citkowitz) on Saturday for the star but had to abandon it as a storm swept in. It has not bee safe enough to restart the search since

The actor lives with his family in a multimillion-dollar mansion in Beverly Hills but has not been seen since Friday

 British actor and ‘A Room with a View’ star Julian Sands, 65, has been named as one of two missing hikers in California’s San Gabriel Mountains. He’s pictured here in 2020

A warning sign at the mountainous range amid ‘extremely dangerous’ conditions that have led to the deaths of two hikers in recent weeks

Sands is known for his roles in several films, including the 1985 feature ‘A Room with a View,’ ‘Warlock,’ and ‘Leaving Las Vegas’

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department says winter weather on Mt Baldy can make for ‘dangerous conditions’ and has urged hikers to think twice before traversing the area

The actor is a father-of-three who became a major star after the 1985 release of the  period drama A Room with a View alongside Helena Bonham Carter. He also appeared in The Killing Fields, Arachnophobia and Leaving Las Vegas. His TV credits include 24 and Smallville.

The 65-year-old has two daughters, Natalya and Imogen, with US journalist Evgenia Citkowitz, who he married in 1990. He has a son, Henry, with his first wife Sarah Sands, the former editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Sands has often spoken about his love of nature and his ‘wonderful outdoor lifestyle’, and has traveled around the world carrying out daring climbs.

He previously told Thrive Global his expeditions during Covid lockdowns were about ‘supplication and sacrifice and humility’.

He added: ‘It’s not so much a celebration of oneself but the eradication of one’s self consciousness. And so on these walks you lose yourself, you become a vessel of energy in harmony hopefully with your environment.

‘I mean, two days ago, I was just an old guy begging people for water at a trail head in the Santa Monica mountains. Who cares if you’re a film person, I was just someone very grateful for the kindness of strangers.’

He once even conducted an entire interview from the face of the Mittellegi Ridge on the Eiger Mountain in the Swiss Alps. 

Many in the TV and film industry have been praying for the star’s safe return.

Actor Samuel West, who starred with Sands in 2004’s Sword of Xanten, tweeted this morning: ‘Please, please let Julian Sands be OK. A friend and an inspiration. Awful news.’

Actor Jim Piddock called Sands a ‘wonderfully talented and unique man and a delightful, generous friend’ and said he is ‘hoping for a miracle’.

A separate search is also ongoing for another hiker, California resident Bob Gregory, in the Crystal Lake area of the mountain range.

A spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said: ‘On Friday at about 7.30pm, a hiker identified as 65-year-old Julian Sands of North Hollywood, was reported missing in the Baldy Bowl area of Mt. Baldy. 

‘Search and Rescue crews responded and began a search. Due to trail conditions and the risk of avalanche, the ground crews were pulled off the mountain on Saturday evening. 

‘However, we continue to search by helicopter and drones when weather permits. We will schedule another ground search when the weather improves, and it is safe for our ground crews.’

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department has warned that ‘severe weather on the mountain has been difficult’ and air resources are limited, while its search and rescue team has been called out to 14 incidents in the last four weeks alone.

It urged hikers to think twice before walking the trails amid ‘extremely dangerous’ conditions.

It comes as two people have died in recent days while while attempting to scale the same mountainous area – one of the most popular trails in Los Angeles.

Crystal Paula Gonzalez, a mother-of-four described as ‘the dancing hiking queen’, is understood to have slipped and plunged 700ft down the Baldy Bowl.

Sands and Helena Bonham Carter during filming for the 1985 romantic film A Room With A View

Sands pictured alongside Denholm Elliott during filming for the popular movie, which received universal acclaim

It is currently unclear if Sands had been hiking alone or with another person

A helicopter was immediately dispatched, and soon found Gonzalez ‘down on a steep and icy hillside, surrounded by numerous helpful hikers assisting in any way they could,’ according to an incident report.

On December 28, Jarret Choi, 43, from LA, was hiking the Ice House Canyon trail when he fell near the Ice House Saddle ridge line.

He was found two days later, after a search hampered by extreme weather conditions.

And on December 17, four people had to be rescued by helicopter from the mountain after icy conditions made it impossible to move.

Meanwhile, the sherriff department warning said: ‘Over the last four weeks, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams have responded to 14 rescue missions on Mt Baldy and in the surrounding area. 

‘These rescue missions have been for lost, stranded and/or injured hikers. Unfortunately, during these past 4 weeks, two hikers did not survive after falling and injuring themselves.

‘Please know the current conditions on Mt Baldy are adverse and extremely dangerous. Due to the high winds, the snow has turned to ice making hiking extremely dangerous. 

‘Sheriff’s Search and Rescue efforts are often hampered by poor weather along with dangerous avalanche conditions. The recent storms that brought the snow and ice conditions are not favorable for hikers, even those that feel they have a high level of experience.

Meanwhile, a separate search is ongoing for another hiker, Bob Gregory of Hawthorne, in the Crystal Lake area of the mountain range.

Gregory’s family said he went missing on Monday and that they are ‘distraught’ and ‘fear he may have hurt himself and fallen.’

Gonzalez, a mother of four from Covina, was passionate about hiking, mountain biking and being outdoors

The treacherous conditions of the San Bernardino Mountains have meant that search and rescue efforts have been ‘hampered by poor weather’

His relatives added that police are in the process of tracing his cell phone, while search teams have combed the area on the ground and from the air on Tuesday.

The Sheriff’s Department has pleaded with visitors to follow simple tips to stay safe. 

These include: ‘Following all posted warning signs, looking at weather conditions (both current and forecasted) for the area, making sure you have proper gear, training and are properly prepared for alpine conditions (crampons, ice axe, proper clothing), taking a hiking partner, taking a tracking or GPS device such as a SPOT Device or INREACH Device, making sure all cell phone’s are fully charged and to bring a charged extra power pack for it.’

They have also told visitors to let someone know where and when they are going, what time they will be back and ‘most importantly’ not to go if there is any hesitation about the terrain.

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