Most of us will spend the weekend with our families and loved ones. For some, that’s impossible because someone is missing, they have vanished into thin air, leaving behind loved ones feeling the most indescribable pain and anguish.
I described in this post how 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, had joined forces with other families of missing people to hold a march in London to highlight their plight, as well as pleading with the government to provide much needed resources.
That date has been in my diary for the last four months – it is next Wednesday, 12 March, and I shall be going. Nicki was interviewed about it yesterday on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday. A politician should have joined in the debate, but failed to turn up. Nicki told me:
“Turned out no one would come in as everyone was passing the buck. Fortunately, Sheila the presenter did not hold back on letting this be known. So it basically summed up the complete isolation we as families go through.”
I shall publish full details of the march later when Nicki forwards me their press release.
MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament, has called for a Europe-wide network to improve the search for children who go missing anywhere in Europe.
Mr McMillan-Scott is working with the campaign group Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT) to establish a UK national resource centre. According to PACT’s research, on average one child goes missing every five minutes in this country. Mr McMillan-Scott told a London press conference yesterday (Thursday) that his campaign to bring back an abducted child from Spain inspired plans to establish a 24-hour helpline for children abducted in the UK and also to create a Europe-wide missing children network:
“Sadly, because of the cases of Shannon Matthews from Dewsbury and Madeleine McCann, the issue of missing children is very much in the news. Unfortunately, according to the Children’s Society, some 130,000 children go missing in each year in the UK – one every five minutes – for a variety of reasons, and although most are recovered, too many are not. This UK hotline should be part of a Europe-wide network, which is desperately needed.”
Only four European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France and Portugal) have a US-style missing children bureau. On 4 March, the European Commission told a Brussels European Children Forum meeting that a 116000 number had been established for child alert cases, but the take-up had been poor.
PACT Chairman Lady Meyer – whose two sons were illegally retained by their father, her first husband, in Germany – said: “PACT believes that a UK National Resource Centre will force central government, the police and the voluntary sector to work on a united front.” She outlined a US-style child alert system at the UK National Police College on Wednesday with Caroline Humer – Program Manager of the Washington-based ‘Amber Alert’ hotline; 97 per cent of missing children each year are recovered by the US system, some 400 each year.
Mr McMillan-Scott, a father and grandfather, who has been campaigning for years for higher standards in child cases across Europe, added:
“Each case of child abduction, whether by parents or others is a tragedy. Some are made worse by the way they are handled by countries, courts or public agencies. We also need to look at the principles of child law across Europe. The Conservative Government brought in the Children Act in 1989. This provided for independent legal representation for children among other measures, which are barely known elsewhere in the EU, let alone internationally.”
Mr McMillan-Scott’s campaign concerned Jessica Ferguson who was born in Scunthorpe and lived in Spain with her father Victor (58), a Benidorm nightclub owner, and her mother Stacey (30) until their relationship broke down and she was brought back to the UK by her mother.
After a High Court ruling to send the child back to Spain last January, Mr McMillan-Scott took up the case. An appeal, which had to be financed at a cost of over Â£10,000 by Lord Stockton – grandson of Harold Macmillan and son of former Halifax MP Maurice Macmillan, overturned the ruling and the child stayed in Britain.
In memory of those who are still missing.