THE family of a Scots academic who vanished in Italy more than two years ago have launched a legal bid to have him declared dead.

David Kelso, a former chief inspector of education, was 65 when he disappeared while on his usual afternoon walk in the hills near his holiday home in the Calabria region of southern Italy.

An extensive search was launched at the time involving police, mountain rescuers and firefighters, but he has never been found.

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The father-of-three, from Carluke, South Lanarkshire, spent part of the year in Italy and was a well-known supporter of the Esperanto language.

His relatives made appeals for his safe return after his disappearance on November 15, 2010, and set up a Facebook page asking for help.

An appeal for information was also broadcast on Italian television.

However, Mr Kelso's son Andrew, a neurology consultant, has asked a court in Scotland to formally declare that his father is dead.

His application to Lanark Sheriff Court states he believes his father to be dead and that there is no evidence he may have been alive after the date of his disappearance.

Anyone who wishes to oppose this has until March 27 to do so before a sheriff's ruling.

It is thought the family have made the bid under the Presumption of Death Act to settle Mr Kelso's financial affairs.

The former lecturer served as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Further and Higher Education in Scotland until his retirement in 2000.

In an appeal posted online a month after his father went missing, Andrew Kelso told how the family's hopes were fading.

He said: "Although we all still hope he might be alive and well somewhere, we have to be realistic, and are starting to accept that this is extremely unlikely."

Mr Kelso had fallen in love with the small Italian village of San Pantaleone since visiting it for the first time while on holiday more than a decade ago.

He was said to have loved the landscape and slow pace of life and decided to buy a house.

He would go on daily hikes in the surrounding hills and mountains and neighbours alerted police when he did not return on the day of his disappearance.

At the time, his home was in perfect order. His mobile phone, laptop and car were still there.

Mr Kelso had a lifelong interest in Esperanto, the language created to allow people from different countries to speak to each other on an equal footing.

He had served as the president of the Scottish Esperanto Association, and fellow speakers have appealed for his return.