Sunday, September 26, 2021


 Elusively, floating into my dreams you come. You are are helping others to safety.  You are pointed out to me as my son.  I found you!  In hushed tones people speak of your gentle courage. It’s you I see and I am elated and proud.  Something happens, there is danger, and I catch my breath in disbelief. 

 It’s a physical pain as I realize it is a dream.

You were there, fleetingly, now gone, fate unknown.  The dream dissipates with the waking of a new day. I have an acute sense of loss once again.  For a brief moment I felt the joy of finding you again.  Maybe one day. Bittersweet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Urban Legend/Speculation


When Damien went missing we soon became very frustrated at the lack of action taken by the police.  In hindsight I feel that the day I reported him missing was the day they made up their minds how this case would go.  Dismissed.  I was informed all teenage boys “go off for a funny five minutes.”  “He will be home by tea-time”. “Gone off to lick his wounds.”  But none of this applied to Damien and we knew as a family he wouldn’t go off and not at least tell someone.  He couldn’t resist telling people where he was and what he was doing.

The whole thing was out of character.  But we were not heard and the running away idea was perpetuated as police told locals he had “run away “swam across The Solent” which is the stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and England southern coastline. Ludicrous at best.  No he wouldn’t have done this.  Police tried to put words in the mouths of his teen friends that he was depressed and a risk taker. No he wasn’t.  One officer declared he drowned and floated off to the Hook of Holland.  On what information did they base this?  Rumor mongering.  Setting in the rot that would eventually render this case virtually unsolvable.  

The rumor and speculation began in earnest on the Isle of Wight until the police were unable to sift facts from fiction.  Damien became a Urban Legend.

Although I welcomed people to contact police or myself with any information it was hard.  People were afraid of repercussions on a small island or didn’t trust police and wouldn’t go on record which rendered that information useless.  

All of this was bad enough but unfortunately part of the territory with a case like this.  One person suggested something and another repeated it slightly differently and before we knew it a whole story re-circulated back as another possible line of enquiry.  The police ignored most of it as regurgitated gossip.  Some of it they couldn’t ignore and had to act on it. 

Then there is the added distress of finding a body/human remains. I cannot even describe the emotions this elicits in the family.  Initially, police informed us of such finds and let us know the results.  But after a few years they failed to let us know.  We hear about it these days on Facebook as good and supportive followers of Damien’s case let us know when they hear of remains found.  I have to chase the police for some reassurance it’s not Damien.  It is hard to hear the comments, theories and innuendo regarding my own sons possible demise.

Families do read reports and articles about their missing loved ones and hearing those comments is very disheartening.  But it goes with the territory. My son is urban legend and his disappearance taken on a life of its own.  We can’t control the internet.  If we approve an article that’s fine but sometimes un-corroborated theories and mistakes are made, which once on the internet, are difficult to repair.  They are woven into the narrative.  It’s almost impossible to unpick the damage. 


Author: The Boy Who Disappeared ISBN: 1789460719

Publisher John Blake Books

Goodreads/Amazon/Audible & bookshops 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

It’s 4am again.

The stars shine bright in the early morning light.  As ever, my mind wanders to you Damien as I ponder your fate.  There is no way to know how you left us, yet.  Memories flood back in monotone like an old celluloid cine film.  Your life, fast forwarding through my mind with snippets of happy times, birthdays, Christmas, and laughter.  The film fizzles, melts, all we hear is the whirring of an empty reel, a life unfinished, there is nothing but silence now as the the switch is flipped. We are left without an ending except visions that haunt our quiet moments. We have been on a rollercoaster ride for so many years. I know that somewhere under those stars you wait for us.  You know we are always looking for you and one day I am sure we will find you.  We have to. 

But time is running out.


Author: The Boy Who Disappeared ISBN: 1789460719

Publisher John Blake Books

Goodreads/Amazon/Audible & bookshops 

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Art of Patience

Living with a missing family member is incredibly difficult.  I say “living with” because we live in a twilight zone.  Not knowing if that person is dead or alive.  We cannot grieve.  We know nothing. We do not have a reason why the loved one is missing.  There is nothing tangible to define their intent to go missing.  These are the lost people who vanish out of character.  No previous episodes of going missing; not disenfranchised, marginalized, or criminalized so where do they fit into the perception of a missing person?  The family left behind learns to wear a mask of patience which comes over time.  We look like we have learned to cope on the outside.  But the fracture within a family is rarely seen or understood.  The loss of a person affects dozens of people in a community.  Like pebble thrown into a pool, the ripples get wider and wider encircling friends and family.   

Little may be done because the police make assumptions they left home of their own choice because that is easy to pigeonhole these cases.  Explaining away the missing person as just another runaway and hopefully nobody will question it.  It is perpetuated as ‘their right to disappear.’ Most missing people do return after a few days and there is data to back this up.  The rest are lost and its down to chance they may be recovered within months, years, or decades.  Many have met with a suspicious death, too late to follow any trail.  Young men especially found deceased in water after a night out.  Too often people vanish and are never seen again.  They never fit the stereotypes and should have been better risk assessed immediately.  

This is a human rights and social issue.  As those left behind attempt to come to terms with this ambiguous loss, anxiety, and depression, even suicide add pressure to already overburdened healthcare workers.   


Author: The Boy Who Disappeared ISBN: 1789460719

Publisher John Blake Books

Goodreads/Amazon/Audible & bookshops 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

No Justice for Damien

There has been no justice for Damien.  He went out one night, waved bye mum, see you later.  I never saw him again. It’s all been said – rumors and speculation.  Police failures. Too late - some arrests and a major search proved fruitless.  A documentary opened up more questions than answers.  Were there people involved or was it gossip based on known criminality by these individuals who allegedly bragged they knew something? The police refused to comment or assist with the television film crew.  Was it because they knew what a poor job they did overall?

A few officers admitted to me it was not handled well.  Some apologized for it.  Some were belligerent.  Its now as a cold case.  Minimal communications from police who I am sure want it all to go away.

I wrote my book to put it into our own words what we suffered through.  We own this pain.   

We are not a unique family as there are so very many like us suffering the loss of a loved one who has gone missing, without an active engaged police force to stay focused on the case.  Too many other crimes that claim their time.  The missing issue, it may be assumed, are people walking away from their lives or who are in dire circumstances so leave home, which happens too frequently.  But  many are out for the evening, with friends, part company and vanish.  Those are the hardest to quantify.  Police make assumptions and valuable time is lost.  Many are found to have drowned due to proximity to canals or rivers or the sea.  Others turn out to be murdered or suspected murder.  Many cases are left  languishing on cold case shelves as unfinished business.   Families left behind to cope are living a life sentence of ambiguous loss.


Author: The Boy Who Disappeared ISBN: 1789460719

Publisher John Blake Books

Goodreads/Amazon/Audible & bookshops 


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

So this is Christmas


It is our 24th Christmas without Damien

I first wrote this in 2013 and updated a few times

How has Christmas changed? Totally. I used to be all about Christmas.  Loved it and planned for it. I enjoyed spending time with my children and we had our traditions that we loved every year.  Favorite shows to watch, school plays, favorite foods to prepare and decorating the house.  All the things that one does in anticipation of the wonderful unfolding of Christmas and the family joys it brings. The wonderment of little children and the squeals of delight as they see the presents under the tree.  I loved to walk home from work through town and see Christmas lights happily dangling across streets, bustling with shoppers laden with bags of holiday food and gifts, heading home as the day turned to night.  I loved Christmas and the feelings of happiness and joy were tangible.  Now we have had 15 years of loss.  Damien is gone. I don’t feel the joy anymore. We have a hole in the center of our family and we don’t know why.

After Damien went missing in November 1996 we went about our usual preparations, but instead of joy, I felt fear.  The tree was trimmed and presents were purchased and placed under the tree. We waited every day for the sound of him coming home, but it never happened.  We honestly thought he would be home by Christmas.  It was unthinkable that he would not be found by then. 

This first Christmas was the beginning of the new, changed Christmas.  We still thought there would be an explanation and he will be home soon. The joy was gone and I tried ever so hard to keep it all together for my other children.  I did all the same things. School plays and festivals and shows and traditions. But I was quaking inside with sadness. I felt guilty the second Christmas doing anything because he was not here.  It was clear he was nowhere to be found and probably would not be walking through the door.  But for the children’s sake we went through the motions.

 I think that is how Christmas has become…going through the motions and trying oh so hard to ‘feel’ the joy, but quietly and methodically avoiding the knowledge that this is all for show and there is no joy at all, not as I knew it.  Putting on a good face and making it the best that I can for the children.  I listen to the Christmas music old and new. I am trying to muster a tiny tiny glimmer of feeling, but it is gone and I am numb. No matter how many Christmas programs I watch, it is gone. 

 I have grandchildren and I watch the shows with them that I watched with their parents and Damien.  I am trying so very very hard to feel something, but it is just so difficult to find any feelings at all.  I am numb. I love to be with the grandchildren and watch little faces…. but still - I am numb.  I think every soft mushy, tender, soppy, warm, happy, gushy, sentimental feeling is gone.  

 I feel content the grandchildren are excited. I am satisfied that my effort to continue to do Christmas has given my children the desire to continue with the traditions and enjoy the anticipation of the season with their own children.  I hope I saved Christmas for them a bit by not giving up completely but by making the best of a bad situation and doing the right thing for those left behind to cope with the loss of a loved, cherished child, and brother….

Thursday, December 3, 2020

In my own words

 I wrote a book about my struggles with the case of my missing son, Damien Nettles.  I felt it was necessary to write our journey into my own words. The emotional turmoil of a child missing is beyond words.  I can only express what I have known.  It goes without saying that anytime a family member mysteriously goes missing, it is unbearable for the family left behind.  There are few resources for a family like mine; no guidance came from the police for us.  We were fortunate to stumble on Missing People, who provided guidance and support.   
Since that time I have been working with people who have come my way to make improvements/change in how missing persons cases are handled.  
So much can go wrong in the initial stages of a missing episode.  I say episode as in some cases, especially missing from care and County Lines, are revolving door cases which most of the time have some resolution until the next episode.  There are significant resources in place through National Crime Agency with focus on the exploitation of young and vulnerable people.
My focus is on the unexplained/out of character incidents especially young males who are NOT marginalized/criminalized in society  but who are missing for other reasons i.e. unplanned or out of character and missing on a night out.  All too common yet often not given appropriate risk assessment by police who stereotype young men as boys being boys or just another teen runaway.   Quick assumptions, in some cases, that missing young people fit one profile, delays in thorough searches.   
The most important thing the police need to do, and is very simple, listen to the concerns of the family who know that person better than anyone.  Act upon it, immediately!  
In our case, we suffered from a feeling of helpless sadness and desperation.  We could not comprehend the scope of what was happening.  We were in a state of shock.  There needs to be understanding of the dynamics of the situation that has befallen the family left behind to cope.  When someone goes missing, knowingly or unknowingly, they take several lives with them which will forever be damaged. In some cases destroyed.  Lives veering onto a new dark path.  Unfulfilled hopes and dreams.  Lost opportunities. Missed happiness. Deep sadness, anxiety and depression.  Broken relationships.  The list goes on.  My experience spans almost 24 years at the time of writing this.  There appears to be increased awareness/willingness by authorities to look closer at such cases, but mistakes, often fatal are still made. Especially in the case young males who are often stereotyped as out on the town, lads being lads.