Charles Steel, the Tory candidate at the centre of an Oxford City Council election fraud inquiry, was missing yesterdaySat, April 29, his party having given up campaigning and his political agent un-aware of his whereabouts.

Mr Steel, a Merton College undergraduate and president-elect of the Oxford University Conservative Association, was standing for the student seat of Holywell in Thursday's elections, but police are investigating an allegation that signatures on his nomination papers were forged.

Yesterday (Fri), the Oxford Mail left messages on Mr Steel's mobile phone, called at his university lodgings and emailed him, but received no reply.

Asked if he knew the whereabouts of Mr Steel, who has not been arrested or charged with any offence, Matthew Barber, the political agent for Central and South Oxfordshire Conservative Group, said: "I don't know. He is certainly not out canvassing and we haven't had any direct contact with him.

"We are not campaigning in Holywell any more. We are very disappointed with the allegations that have been made, but while police are investigating, we will not be making any comment."

The city council was approached by some of the 10 individuals who appeared as assentors on Mr Steel's nomination form to say they had not signed papers.

Making a false declaration on an election nomination paper is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine or up to two years in jail.

The Conservatives have already come under fire for not fielding candidates in all the 25 seats up for grabs. Only 18 candidates including Mr Steel are standing.

Yesterday Conservative leader David Cameron was out campaigning in his Witney constituency. His spokesman George Eustace said: "Clearly, these are very serious allegations and obviously we would rather there were not allegations, but it would be wrong to comment."