Sunday, January 30, 2022

A New Year in the continued search for Damien Nettles

2022 began our family lost yet another member of our family. Damiens uncle Nigel passed on New Years Day after a valiant battle with Leukemia. He desperately wanted to know what happened to his much loved nephew.

Nigel represented our family at numerous events hosted by Missing People Charity Nigel and his wife Janet opened their beautiful historical home to public tours along with cream teas to raise money for this Charity.  His daughter Sophie did a charitable walk around the Isle of Wight to raise more funds.


Missing People are the only charity in the UK  to serve the both the missing person and families/friends left behind to cope.  They also are instrumental in research and development with government bodies to improve current standard practices.


So as we enter, what I can only describe as a already fractured year, it’s time to assess where we are, are not, with Damiens case.


In 2011 the case was elevated to a suspected murder.  This was 14 years after he went missing.  Arrests were made and perfunctory searches done.  But after 14 years peoples memories cloud or potential witness had passed away who may have been able to shed light on the facts.  Prospective burial sites dismissed. Facts were in short order in this case from day one.


Although being high risk due to age and out of character disappearance, nothing was done on any acceptable level to find a missing 16 year old boy.  In fact I was belligerently told by an officer he was 19 and old enough to please himself if he wanted to go off.  No wonder little was achieved in the golden hours of this case. CCTV was dismissed out of hand and lost by police for any further scrutiny.  


The case is currently touted by Hampshire Constabulary as a ‘missing person’ cold case.  It is very puzzling that despite the continued flow of information of alleged foul play it’s not been maintained at a elevated level of risk assessment that would encourage information.  Instead we have been told they didn’t want to encourage more information to come in for this case as they have ‘done everything’.  


No, they have not. They gave themselves a narrative in 2014 as having done ‘due diligence’ after the short search and fruitless arrests.  Then they shelved the case with their cold case unit.


So this is where we are.  They refuse to re-visit the continued flow of information constantly provided. I pass everything to the cold case officer who has been helpful.  However, the buck stops up the chain of command as to whether or not anything we forward is going to be followed up.  We have been waiting over a year for promised work around DNA.  There is no budget.  Police funds are cut which are excuses I hear.  Despite the offer of a community interest group to take this on to assist police at no cost the police.  Nothing ever happens!


The only facts we have are what we knew on the day we reported him missing which was November 3, 1996, approximately 15 hours after he was last seen. 


He was seen by several people (witnesses) during the late evening of November 2, 1996.  He went out with his friend, drank cider and later bought chips at 11:45pm seen on chip shop security camera where was surrounded by men later identified as being army personnel visiting the Island.

There is speculation Damien could have taken drugs but there are no ‘factual’ statements within the police report that proves he did. As a family we have to be open to all possibilities, but so far it is hearsay. If anyone later changed their narrative to suit themselves then why did police not revisit previous the statements given by those same individuals around Damien that night? One has to wonder if anything that was said can be trusted? 

Damien’s case was handed from the Isle of Wight police in 2002 to Major Crimes Unit of Hampshire Constabulary.  At this time information was input on their HOLMES database.  We later discovered any prior information 1996-2002 was not input into the HOLMES system.


Last confirmed sighting was on street CCTV (lost by police) at 12:05am November 3,1996 eating chips walking along Cowes High Street, alone.  


Royal Yacht Squadron had an event that evening,  an acquaintance Damiens said he would be working at the event. But police have never addressed this.  I have a redacted report spanning 2002-2017 with witness statements with no mention of the squadron event.  Despite loud voices arguing/shouting reported in the early hours of the morning from residents nearby. It was dismissed because police said it was hard to prove or follow up.  At the time we deferred to what police told us.  We had no inkling what could be accomplished.  But now we do know it’s painfully clear important possibilities were ignored. I have the major review done in 2006 which never mentions the squadron.  Why were army men in town? There must have been a guest list so an important question still looms about who else was in Cowes that night?  Despite bringing this up many times over the years it’s never been addressed.