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. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Oh Why Not! 💁‍♀️

I don’t want Covid! Jeez!  

I am 68 years old. 

I don’t want Covid!

I am certainly not decrepit,  I am very healthy. But am I vulnerable?  Probably!

But I don’t want Covid!

I will wear a mask in public because I will protect myself a little and show that I will take this seriously to protect other people.  Not to mention, I now am very  aware of other peoples spit levels coming in my direction.  I think that’s enough to remain a masker long after there is a vaccine which will bring this under control.
I don’t deserve to die because a few may feel I don’t warrant protecting, old, expendable and “on the way out anyway.”  I/we/elderly have lived a long time to get to this point.  We have paid our dues.  We have seen a lot.  We have faith in recovery.  Society is not crumbling.  Life goes on.  We learned his decades ago.  Life changes.  People change. Governments change and nothing in this world is static.  You do have a say and you do have control.  Live a good life, do the right thing, support and protect each other.  It’s called understanding and empathy.  Its collective cooperative consideration caring and not being bloody selfish!  
My life is not your lottery where survival of the fittest seems to be weeding out the weakest.  Especially not when precautions suggested/mandated just might be the way forward!  Setting the example.  Showing solidarity against contaminating more people.

No it’s not going away.  However, I believe there is hope for a vaccine in the our future. Then you can un-mask yourself. We will all on a level playing field after vaccines are given a chance to save even the most vulnerable.  Right now there is no safety net. So let’s all respect that this is a temporary situation.  Make the best of these times and don’t wallow in pity for what you can’t do but be content in the fact you do have a future. 
I want to see my grandchildren graduate college and  marry, if that is what they want.  I want to be a great grandmother. 

I want to be around for as long as I can.  Especially because I want to see Damien laid to rest.  I don’t want Covid to ruin that last hope for peace of mind for me and Ed, our family, friends and caring community.  I don’t want to die without providing that one final dignity for my son. 

So, I don’t want Covid and please wear your forking mask and stop the whinging & whining.  It’s not forever.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Somewhere in England my son remains to be found

Ups and downs are normal in this life of missing Damien.  

Every year, at this time, Nov 2,  I have felt hopeful we will get somewhere as I busied myself with aspects of the case, pushing through the inertia.  It’s devastating to look back and know not enough was done &, perhaps, Damien may have been recovered in whichever way that could be.  There are many cases much older, not ‘cold cases’ and still have active SIO’s assigned.  So many similar cases were featured on Crimewatch, which SIO refused to ask for. I was informed they already had too much information and didn’t need any more.  Damien has been put on ice. Swept under a rug.  In short, the case should have remained a suspected murder, as was classified in 2010/11.  

Somewhere on British soil my son is still waiting to be found.  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

As we approach year 24

In the past year I was on and off anti-depressants.  If they could change the root of my sadness they would be a bloody miracle.  So I am off them and find a clarity in thoughts again.  The only thing that could possibly help is Damien being given back to us in whatever form that might take.  We need to bring him home to rest.  It’s all we ever want.  

I  continue to focus on improving the care & community surrounding the missing issue.


I joined Missing People Charity’s advisory group assisting  with  creation of content on a new website which will be launched soon.


I have joined several zoom events with the Charity which bring families together during lockdown to feel connected with others who understand.  It’s been a success.   I and other families were invited to assist the Met who are devising online forms for reporting the missing which was an interesting project.


I recently spoke to a high ranking officer about the issue and got some great feedback.  I was heard and acknowledge which is all we families need.   The most essential component in these cases is good communication skills between police and family.  Should be simple, right? Not so much!   Some are fortunate to be assigned a case liaison officer but many languish in a suspended state as nothing is being communicated and advice is lacking.  Still in 2020, things can always be improved. 


Locate International are working with University criminology students to review Damiens case file information and identify any leads police can progress further.  The report will be sent to Damiens cold case officer for consideration.  So another wait and see game with Hants Constabulary I am sure.


There is still a lot to be done and I have continued to push for Damiens Law if only to create an awareness of issues that need improvement.  However, some areas of the manifesto may be redundant and my focus will probably change as we identify which of those issues we can actually cross off the list based on current  improvements taking shape and progressed.  The prospect of a Damiens Law was always a long shot and with the current Covid issues would have very little chance of ever going anywhere.  It doesn’t seem hopeful for a lasting legacy to Damien.


My book has sold around 5k in paperback & ebooks.  So not too bad for a first time book.  It’s never going to be a best seller and it wasn’t done for any gain other than to document how we have had to manage the minefield of information that we have to get our family head and hearts around.


At the end of the day, almost 24 years on, I feel lost and alone as I look back at the long road we have been treading and the endless horizon ahead. I am okay, it’s not dire it’s just real and it’s sad.  I  am struggling with sounding the out the words of  hope, but I have to confess it’s hollow hope.  Words to help others feel better but the space within my soul is struggling to believe.


Anyone who has pertinent information can contact our website


Or Hampshire Constabulary directly!





Wednesday, September 30, 2020

For Damien

You visit my thoughts every day.  Sometimes in my dreams I see you smiling and for a moment I believe your safe with us again.  With the cruel light of day the vision, & happiness it brought to my weary heart, fades away and the cold reality washes over me.  Your gone.  It’s been a long time.  In my heart you live forever 16.  My hope is one day, in any way we can, we will find you and bring you home. Always and forever in my heart.  Mumx

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


 It may be difficult to grasp  but….

Why we are still talking about this.  So many people still go missing it’s hard to keep up with it.  Many return fairly soon. But so many don’t. It is very real and sobering. 23 years has passed since our son, Damien, vanished off the face of the earth. Families of recent missing family members look at us in awe and dread.  We (and sadly too many others) are the poster family for what they fear the most.  They could be us in years to come. 


It’s assumed we have healed the wounds by now.  Although it will soon be 24 years, in every way,  it is still November 3 1996, the day we found he was gone from our lives.  We calculate life events by the date marker Damien vanished. It is raw but we have learned to function in and around it. The pain still exists.   In our hearts we are desperately waiting to find him again.  We don’t want pity or attention.  We need help from the community to remember him and to give those who might know what did happen the chance to find it in their hearts to tell us.  Or, we pin our hopes on finding his remains.  How perverse to have a need to find your child’s bones?  But it’s reality for us long term families of the missing.  If you can say hope?  That’s what we want.  Our loved one back in the fold.  Respectfully placed at rest.  


Author: The Boy Who Disappeared ISBN: 1789460719

Publisher John Blake Books

Goodreads/Amazon/Audible & bookshops 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Struggles on the road back to my life


As time wears on you learn to live with the loss and surrounding anxieties.  It is so difficult to stop searching when it has been my only career for the past 23 years. I have been immersed in my missing son’s case.  I know he is not coming home.  The best I can hope for is we find his remains and lay him to rest.  We will probably never know what happened.  But how to return to some semblance of normality is a huge struggle.  I share my experience to help with others in similar situations.  Assisting organizations who are helping with the missing issue is one way.  But its not enough.  I have been pro-active with social media and created a petition for improved investigations of the missing.  I wrote a book looking from the inside out of our missing son’s case.   I have consciously  heaped more on my shoulders.   I feel it is time to throw in the towel and go back to a “normal” life.  Whatever that is.  But I just can’t let this go.  So I come back to it again and again to try to effect change and offer some input shed some light and validate my son existed and pray its not all for naught.  My son set me on this path.  God willing it wont be for nothing.  Damien has to count for something in his 16 years of life.  

I has been, and still is, a life sentence.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Missing Community

I have spent the last almost 24 years looking for my missing son.  He vanished into thin air one night in November 1996. We don’t have any idea why.

I have met many families and friends of the missing  over the years at events..  I have kept in touch with many through social media but it’s not always been possible to continue to meet up and really connect.


However, lockdown due to Covid, created something positive!  Working from home, the Missing People Charity  kept the lights on for us in the UK.  Weekly online Zoom meeting for families to meet up and chat in a safe space, facilitated a platform to allow us share our experience and form a bond.  Community and communication are essential to help us know we are not alone and there are others who really do understand the strain and anxiety of ambiguous loss (Dr Pauline Boss). Keeping in touch, using online meeting apps, has brought us together in real time from around the globe creating a true feeling of community.


Regardless of which country you may be dealing with the uncertainty of a missing loved one, the emotions, the obstacles  and journey are the same.  Recently I reached out to contacts in America to help someone from the UK  who has a family member missing in the States.  The response was immediate caring & supportive with advice and offers of help with open arms.


Although we may often feel desolate and alone in our journey, we are not alone as there exists, albeit sadly,  a huge  community of people around the globe who understand this torment of ‘not knowing’. 


An international approach is what the team at  Locate International are putting into practice.  Run by ex law enforcement offices with a impressive resume of knowledge and skills around the missing issue, teamed up with several universities in the UK and overseas.  Taking cases that stagnated into cold cases, under their guidance,  criminology students will review to see if all possible leads have been considered.  Taking any information back to the appropriate police forces to consider further investigation.

It’s heartening to know there is support for this issue which is vast and encompasses many issues behind the individual cases - some leave because they need to and some are unexplained.  Either way it is a drain on police resources and basically a social issue needing grass roots intervention in many cases.  Police can’t fully apply themselves to these cases hence the hopeful support provided by services surrounding the issues might help stem that tide.

Support this issue by signing Damien’s Law









Monday, July 13, 2020

A Life Sentence

Some days I feel like I am losing it.  The constant mental attention to Damien’s case over the years has been intense. I feel I lost my life when my son disappeared.  It’s a life sentence and I don’t know why.


I am in a tunnel and I don’t know who I am anymore but desperately searching for some light.  It’s not a life, it’s existing.  Anti-depressants don’t take away the situation.  Counseling helps to talk it through but it doesn’t solve the issue.  The issue is I have lost a child and I have no idea how or why.  My grief will be  endless until I find an answer and can begin to heal.  My life is flat. No highs and no lows just treading the flat line in hope, ‘one day we will get answers.’  


I am not alone. Too many others are suffering along with me. My family and friends.  Other families who have a missing person situation in their life suffer similarly.  We all hope somebody somewhere can help is shed light on our loved ones disappearance. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Weird Covid days

March 30, 2020
Hello blog, I am on day who knows what of lockdown, shelter in place and getting a little stir crazy.  Taken the dog to the dog park and used doggy poo bags, empty, to open gates.  I gave  the handful of doggy mums and dads a wide berth.

Basically I have been inside now for a month.  I am retired so not needing to concern myself with things I have no control over anyway!  I have spent my time reading books - on Audible.  CB Strike novels by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling - highly recommend!!   Doing so meet ups on Zoom.  Cleaning.  But other than that am stuck in the house.  I do online grocery shopping which I pick up at the allotted time slot.  However, the time slots are now  sometimes a four day wait so I alternate two stores.  I was able to get most of what I need this way.  However, this week just about everything is unavailable for pick up or is out of stock.  This is starting to get dire.  Trump, I know because I saw his lips move and say the words, promised us the supply chain would not dry up.  But supplies without employees to move them are redundant.  My family laughed at me when I said we need a vegetable garden planting.

I just miss that spur of the moment feeling of   ‘I will pop out to the store.’

Strange how ‘unskilled’ workers are now our best hope to keep the basic infrastructure going.  Karma  Donald - now we need those people double quick!

It’s also dire when our leaders of governments become sick and have to isolate.  Royalty too.  The mind boggles how things could change in a heartbeat.

So on the one hand many places shut down and the roads are almost empty compared to normal.   But, there again, the garden nursery across the road seems to be going great guns with cars rolling up.  Not sure that is an ‘essential service’ but hey ho!  Rules don’t seem to mean much.  The road workers widening the road or putting in drainage are working hard.  Must be a joy for them to be working and not have cars everywhere!

The grands have begun their online virtual school work this week.  My husband is working from home and said he got tons of business this week so far.  Weird.  Maybe this is a sign of things to come with remote school work and remote  home office.  So much for companies who seemed to think  it couldn’t be done.  Where there is a will there is a way - my mother always said.

Ladder of Hope

COVID has brought society to its knees with its untested influence.   Nobody is safe. It can happen to anyone.    We are stopped in our tracks and forced to reassess how we got here.  Could we have done something to stop it?  Can it ever be fixed?  Will life ever be the same? Suddenly the pictures of third world disasters are now us.  Our complacent comfortable lives laid bare and vulnerable.  We are not invincible.

When our son vanished In 1996 time stood still for our family.  We began living life with one foot in the present and one foot firmly in the past. Life in limbo, ambiguous loss (Dr. Pauline Boss) are descriptions for families left behind to cope with the unresolved loss of a loved one.   Not knowing is the worst. No finality. The future looking vague.  Loss, confusion, dismay. Wondering, how could this happen? Learning to put the jigsaw of life back together, leaving large blank holes where once there was a vital vibrant important  piece.

I think we are already on a ladder of hope to repair our lives - it’s a process.  Some things can be fixed but some cannot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dismal Days

It’s a very tenuous thread between feeling okay and feeling devastated.  One minute feeling good, holding  it together, feeling strong, useful, worthwhile and hopeful and making a difference.  The next feeling totally crestfallen, desolate & isolated. Pulling oneself up by the boot straps again.  It will be okay a one day...

Monday, March 16, 2020


Then, suddenly
just like that
all the wheeling, dealing,
grasping, manipulations
of daily life
as we knew it
is reduced
to a heap of
by a rampant global virus

while we were not looking

Saturday, March 7, 2020


The things left unsaid
Words cannot do justice
Emotions lived within
Efforts gone unnoticed 
Days lost anguish
Years of life missed out on
Anxiety and anger simmering
Loss tangled with the living
The struggles of desperation
Silent cries for justice
Highs of hope and lows of desolation
A hand outstretched to hold
Fading light when fears loom large
Forever left wondering
Did we do enough?
Feelings of  despondency
Light shines in
Raise up 
Nobody could have done more
Don’t give up 
Stronger than imagined
Grasp the outstretched hand 
The light is here