THE father of missing hiker Tom Billings has accepted it is unlikely his son is alive as Canadian police have halted their search.

The 22-year-old from Boars Hill has not been seen since he set off on a short mountain trek in Vancouver in November.

But searches were suspended last week following efforts focused on a peak in the North Shore area.

Dad Martin Billings said: “The overwhelming probability is Tom is lying dead on that particular mountain.

“In the winter you don’t survive for six weeks lying out in the open in Canada on a mountain. It is just a fact.”

But he said he could not say with certainty his son was dead and likened the situation to a shipwreck, adding: “People are lost overboard but you don’t know for absolute certaint they have not been washed up on an island somewhere.”

The family is now facing a long wait until the mountain snow melts in June for the search for the former Cokethorpe School pupil to resume.

His father, 51, said searchers had not been able to check a dangerous area where his son could be lying.

He said: “Rather sadly they think that area, given the times when Tom was sighted, is the most likely place for him to have got to, and the most likely place to have an accident.”

He said: “It is not a risk I would want them to take.”

Mr Billings, a lawyer with Abingdon-based firm BrookStreet des Roches, praised the search efforts.

He said: “I am absolutely convinced that the police and rescue team have done everything they humanly can to find Tom.”

But he said it was important to the family – mum Laura and younger sisters Harriet and Anna – to know what had happened.

He said: “I would like to know what actually happened. Did he slip and knock himself out or did he fall and was too seriously injured to move? There are a range of possibilities.”

Last month Mr Billings flew out to Vancouver to help with the search and made a television appeal for information.

Tom was visiting North America after graduating from Durham University with a first-class degree in psychology in the summer.

He was due to study for a doctorate in disabilities such as autism.

Constable Brian Montague, of Vancouver Police Department, said the search had been suspended on January 5.

He said: “All of the tips provided to police about Mr Billings have been followed up and all investigative leads exhausted.

“Any focused mountain searches will be discontinued unless police receive additional information.”