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Tue, August 22, 2006
Searching for clues

Police scour missing man's family's computer for leads


Detectives are scouring the family computer at Robert Barrington Leigh's parents' home north of Whyte Avenue in hopes of finding clues as to the lost young man's whereabouts.

"They're looking at all his accounts on the computer, there might be an e-mail there or something to give us a clue where he is," Robert's sister Rosalind said last night.

Since last Tuesday more than 100 volunteers have put in over 2,500 hours searching for the missing 20-year-old math whiz, and distributed more than 25,000 flyers in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver.

The disappearance continues to baffle Robert's family, who initially suspected foul play.

On Saturday, Robert's brother Christopher Barrington Leigh raised the possibility his sibling had possibly taken a self-imposed "math retreat" and doesn't want to be found.

"If he wanted to hide himself he could," Chris said at the time, pointing out his brother's high level of intelligence, as displayed in his near-genius aptitude at mathematics.

Robert's sister Rosalind Barrington Leigh isn't convinced Robert fits the reclusive profile that characterizes eccentric mathematics savants like Grisha Perelman.

Perelman - a gifted mathematician since his teens - is now a 40-year-old recluse who disappeared from the public eye in 2003 and lives with his mother in Russia.

He reportedly shied away from society after an acrimonious split with a Russian math institute a few years ago.

Perelman is heavily favoured to win this year's Fields Medal - math's equivalent of the Nobel Prize - for his 2003 proof documenting the shape of the universe, but is expected to skip today's awards ceremony in Madrid.

Rather than publish the proof in a peer-reviewed journal, Perelman posted it on the Internet.

"From what I know of Robert his character doesn't fit that kind of behaviour," Rosalind said, after reading of Perelman's eccentric tendencies.

She took particular exception to the comments of Stanford professor Keith Devlin, as quoted in a national newspaper.

Devlin said "many mathematicians are a bit bonkers."

"(Robert) is very clever, but he was just starting to come out of his shell and explore different things. He was excited about his life and was beginning to socialize more, not less.

"But I do accept that some people with that kind of mind may be prone to eccentricity."

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