This is the heartbreaking story of Valerie Nettles, whose lovely son Damien has been missing for 14 years next month, and whose search still continues:

“We were an ordinary family, doing ordinary everyday things as life hummed along in a comfortable hum-drum way.  Then one night, my 16 year old son went out with his friends one wet windy cold night in November in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and he never came home.  Never heard of or seen again….Damien will have been missing 14 years and it is still incredible to me that we still know nothing.  It is incredible I cannot hold him, touch his face, and laugh at this silliness. In a blink of an eye all that changed.  I miss him more than I can ever put into words and it hurts deep in my soul.

“All we know is what we pieced together after we realised he was missing, his movements, who he spoke with, and more importantly we see him on security video in the local chip shop surrounded by strange men and again on CCTV on the High Street walking alone, eating chips without a care.  It is the ‘not knowing’ that is the worst.  We know nothing so imagine ‘everything’ that could have happened.  We don’t feel he ran away as there were no signs, reasons that he would want to and he had his chance if he wanted to the week before.

“I think the attitude of the local police when we reported our son missing woke us to the realisation that it was down to us to look for him or what happened to him.  With that in mind, we proceeded and still proceed to find out information, which we have related to the police in the hopes they could further the inquiry.

“Over the years I have done numerous appeals on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.   I co-organised The March for the Missing in March 2008 in London with Nicki Durbin, mother of missing boy Luke Durbin, to help raise awareness for the issue of those who go missing including getting a bill passed to help assist the families left behind to cope.

“The formation of the NPIA (National Policing Improvement Agency) in 2008 gave me hope that finally the Missing issue was getting the support and attention that it needs with the national Missing Persons Bureau, overseen by an official organization, and the national clearing house for missing person cases and the only DNA center in the UK to help identify unidentified remains.   More recently the Government implemented a Task Force to look into the phenomenon of the missing issue.  Imagine my shock, and the shock of other families and friends of missing and lost people that the Government intends to scrap the NPIA.  That leaves families like mine back in a limbo again, without focus, support, direction, hope.  There is more hope for a lost puppy with the support of the RSPCA than there is for my lost boy and others like him.

“What do I have for my missing son and where to I go for help?  Why am I clawing to find my son, why are countless other families in the same situation?  We are on our own.

“On the 14th anniversary we are renting a billboard in the busy town of Newport, Isle of Wight.  Yet again the family and friends pull together to’ get something done for Damien’.  The billboard will feature a picture of Damien and brief description of Damien and will include the Crime Stoppers phone number.  Over the years we have done whatever we can to keep Damien in people’s minds on the Isle of Wight and further afield and support has been incredible.  We feel that something happened to him there and that someone knows.  Maybe now people have grown up and have families of their own, they might begin to understand how we are feeling about our lost son.”

In memory of those who are still missing.

Update: 16 July 2016 – the full story about Damien’s disappearance broadcast by the BBC.