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

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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.

Some days! Just can't get it right.

 That feeling when you really really want to write something down and you open your laptop and the facial recognition does not recognize you!  Nothing seems to work and when you do finally get online it has to download dozens of updates and clean up the damn computer and the monitor goes off......and all the time you’re busting a gut to write something down because it’s in your head and you need to get it out so I’m doing this on my Flippin cell phone with voice recognition! However, that didn’t work either at first...I’m so frustrated at this point I don’t know where to put myself.  Stress?

I was going to take my dog for a walk this morning and as we walked out of the door and she leapt out towards a dog she could see way down the road and nearly disjointing my shoulder.  The owner of said dog was picking up poop and my dog launched her self out of the front door barking her head off.  My dog weighs 100 pounds she’s a big big dog and holding her back, trying to control her was a pain in the butt. I made her sit and told her to calm down and I told her to lie down which she ignored as she has selective hearing, the little Biatch…. I just stepped back in the house,  pushed her inside and went for a walk on my own!  That will teach her.  Except she has no idea she was just I feel guilty.

I’m really kind of pissed off this week! Wound up like a top.  Nothing seems to be going to plan and I should know by now life just does not ‘go to a plan.’ When has my life ever gone to a plan?  The only plan I had for the past 24 years is searching for my missing son.  Always in the back of my head, in my heart every day as I go about my business looking after the dog and feeding the cats and cleaning the house and the day to day worries, my mind thinking about what I can I do?  How can I find my son Damien?

People ask why I bother after 24 years what do I expect to find out? Like its irrelevant now or something? I explain - I hope to find his remains.  I  just want his body back - that would do for now and then I could worry about how he got there and what happened to him later.  Obviously it wouldn’t be any closure and it would open another door full of questions.  At least I might be able to give him a burial and know where he is and have a place to go and visit him

I’m spiraling at the moment and I know I’m spiraling and I know I’ll come back out of it but at the moment I’m indulging it because I understand I need to to go that space.   I need to dig deep into those feelings because I can’t forever pretend like there’s nothing wrong,  Sometimes I just have to go visit it deep down, confront, then self-talk myself back on track. I know I am frustrated - really frustrated. I try extremely hard to do the best I can - but sometimes just doesn’t seem quite enough and there must be something else? Oh dear!  Life is such a bitch.  In this world of the missing it’s isolated lonely depressing desperate disappointing most days.  On those days its hard to see a bright side. 

Time to put on the "I am coping well" face. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020


Publicity for my missing son is trade off.  Keeping your loved ones missing case relevant and current is the hope!  On the one hand you get the story back into the news and peoples minds.

It is a mental and physical roller-coaster of emotion every time.   


It’s exhausting as I feel myself slide into overdrive, shaking with the heightened adrenaline, jaws chattering out of my control.  I persevere. It’s my chance to have Damien acknowledged. He is still a missing person. After the interview it takes awhile to settle that adrenaline rush and to go over in my mind what was discussed.  Fretting if I got it all out clearly!  Jumping through adrenaline hoops re-living the moments again.


I have to believe it will be better to endure the physical distress than not to try again. If the trade off works out then it’s worth the effort. 


It is still bitterly disappointing if the media fail to follow through with an article!  


One learns to have a thick skin as possible and to expect to be let down.  It cushions the fall. So many times it’s bumped by bigger stories or an editor decided on a whim not to got with it.

Chalk it up to fickleness.