THE FATHER of student hostage Paul Wells has spoken of his son's amazing thirst for adventure on the eve of his 100th day in captivity.

And Paul's dad Bob says he is still confident that his son will return home safe and well.

It was on July 4 when Paul was seized by the Al-Faran Kashmiri separatist group in the Indian province of Jammu Kashmir. On Wednesday, Paul's 100th day in hell, his family will pray his ordeal comes to a safe and speedy end. Some of the latest reports claim he and his fellow hostages are still alive but severely ill because of the harsh Himalayan winter conditions.

Bob says the trip to the Himalayas was the realisation of a lifetime ambition for the student, who should now have returned for the second year of his B-Tec National Diploma course in photography at South Nottingham College. "The Kashmir region held a particular interest for Paul," said Bob. "He was always interested in foreign travel and adventure. When Paul was younger, Chris Bonnington was his hero. He used to read hundreds of books about him and about climbing in general. He did lots of hill-walking, sailing and climbing. Last year he even spent two weeks walking the notorious El Charo mountain range in Spain. Basically, he was an outdoor type - and a bit headstrong. If he had any idea in his head he just went for it."

Bob said Paul, a former pupil of Feniscowles Junior and Darwen Vale High Schools, had probably inherited his active streak from his family.

After leaving school, he completed a course for people considering joining the services. "The whole family have always been keen walkers," said Bob. "But Paul stuck at it."

The trip to India was the culmination of months of planning made possible by a legacy left by Paul's late grandfather, Seymour Frost.

He was the man who helped give Paul, 24, his thirst for knowledge and adventure and love of photography.

"Paul's grandfather used to have a darkroom at his home," Bob added.

"He would spend hours in there with Paul and would encourage him to keep up his photography.

"They were very close. When he died just before Christmas, Seymour left Paul some money. It was that money which financed the trip." Mr Wells, 50, who manages the suit department at the Blackburn branch of Debenhams, said the trip was also arranged as one "last big holiday" before the Paul and girlfriend Cath Moseley, 26, left to study in different parts of the country.

Bob added: "They hoped to be able to spend some time together before Cath went off to study art history at Colchester University."

Paul and Cath, whose parents live in Norwich, had been together since Paul moved away from East Lancashire to college in the autumn of 1994.

Bob added: "They met in Nottingham where Cath was working as a social worker with an organisation called Base 51. She worked with drop-out kids.

"The plan was that Paul could also put together some photographs for his portfolio. His ambition had always been to become a photo-journalist." "The air fair alone cost £1,000 and they had spent around £800 on equipment.

"Paul and Cath had arranged it themselves and flew into New Delhi from Manchester. Cath spoke to the Foreign Office before they set off and told them where they intended to travel. They had spent ages reading books, watching videos and gathering equipment and information.

"Both completed all the necessary inoculations three weeks before the trip. As far as they were concerned, they were safe. He was really looking forward to going," Bob added.

When the news broke, Paul's family gathered at their home on the Pinewood estate in Feniscowles.

Younger brother Stuart, 22, who shared a house in Nottingham with Paul last term, put off a summer trip to Czechoslovakia and instead travelled to see an aunt in North America so that he could keep up to date with developments. He is now back in Nottingham and regularly fields good-wishes from fellow students who have kept Paul's locker open for his return.

Sister Sarah, 20, who is on an outdoor education management course at Blackburn Technical College, kept up to date with developments despite working through the summer as a windsurfing instructor in the Lake District. And Paul's mum Dianne, who was recovering from an operation when the news broke, has been kept company at home by her sister-in-law throughout the ordeal.

Bob added: "I believe that Paul is tough and resilient and will be able to cope with the ordeal."

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