I met some wonderful people today, families and friends of missing people, all marching through London to raise awareness about the lack of support they receive. All trying to do their best for the loved ones they have lost.
Their personal stories are not just tragic because of their huge loss, but because of the way these cases are dealt with by police and officials – particularly overseas.
That was the case of the McCanns after Madeleine vanished in Portugal – her great uncle and aunt, Patrick and Alexis, carried banners on the march today. Steven Cook’s devastated parents Norman and Pat travelled from Cheshire to be there too, but missed the march due to railway delays, and told me about their nightmare after their son vanished in Crete. I also met Jo Gibson, mother of Eddie, who disappeared in Cambodia, and constantly ran into one brick wall after another.
I spoke to so many families who felt let down by the lack of understanding and concern shown about their situation, the need for prompt police action, perhaps setting up a police task force to deal with missing people, and knowing who and where they should turn to during their darkest days. Coming to terms with an unexplained disappearance without closure is very traumatic; these families need professionals who can help them through it.
I also met the devoted family of Raymond Scott, who still hope he will return to them one day, and Vinny Derrick’s loving family, as well as the two magnificent women who made the march happen – Nicki Durbin, mother of Luke who vanished in May 2006 aged 19, and Valerie Nettles, whose son Damien disappeared mysteriously in November 1996 when he was 16.
The march, from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square, was followed by the names of missing people being read out. It was very moving. Daffodils were then placed on the ground.
One mother later slipped a piece of paper in my hand with the name of her missing son, Gavin Terry, 19, a student who vanished in Leeds on 12 January this year. The note says that police believe he may have drowned in the River Aire. We can only hope and pray that is not the case.
Ann Winterton would like a Missing Persons’ Bill to be introduced which would provide counselling for families, as well as helping them achieve widespread publicity. The Missing People charity estimates 210,000 people are reported missing each year, it desperately needs more funding to help support familes.
I think this campaign must now build on its strengths from today. The organisers should be encouraged by its positive media coverage, and particularly the supportive network it provided for the families – who else can understand how they are feeling? I would like to see this become an annual march to ensure it remains high profile.
I have updated my pics at the top of my site with a few I took at the march.
*Some YouTubes from the day can be found here.
Update: Tragically, Gavin Terry’s body has been recovered from the river. My deepest sympathies to his family.
In memory of those who are still missing.