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Mother whose son vanished 23 years ago says finding a body would be better than not knowing his fate

A mom whose teenage son vanished 23 years in the past admits discovering his stays can be ‘infinitely higher’ than the purgatory of by no means figuring out what occurred to him.

Valerie Nettles, 67, final noticed Damien Nettles, then 16, when he left their residence on the Isle of Wight for an evening out with pals on November 2, 1996.

After discovering he was lacking the following morning, she and husband Ed, 69, went to the police – and what adopted was a police investigation Valerie describes as ‘lackadaisical’.

She claims her household felt unsupported, and blunders reminiscent of officers initially recording Damien’s age as 19 as an alternative of 16 led to a sluggish begin – regardless of the primary few hours of a lacking particular person case being important.

Valerie Nettles, 67, final noticed her son Damien Nettles, then 16, when he left their residence on the Isle of Wight for an evening out with pals on November 2, 1996

Valerie claims her household felt unsupported by the investigation into Damien’s (pictured) disappearance, and blunders reminiscent of officers initially recording his age as 19 as an alternative of 16 led to irritating delays

Now, greater than 20 years later, Valerie lives in a relentless state of agonising limbo, with no concept if her ‘bigger than life’ son suffered a tragic accident or was murdered. His disappearance is presently seen by police as a chilly lacking particular person case.

The mother-of-four has devoted her life to discovering out what occurred to Damien, and was lately supplied a glimmer of hope by a newly established community-led advocacy group – Find Centre for Lacking Folks Investigation – which has agreed to evaluate his case.

Talking about Damien, Valerie – a retired admin assistant – described her grief as ‘endless’ and ‘unresolved’.

‘I’ve by no means stopped on the lookout for him,’ she informed FEMAIL. ‘It is simply terrible, it by no means goes away; it is the primary and final thing I consider, and in between on a regular basis – even now, and it is simply over 23 years this previous November that he went lacking. 

Valerie lives in a relentless state of agonising limbo, with no concept if her ‘bigger than life’ son (pictured) suffered a tragic accident or was murdered

Damien, pictured along with his brother and sisters – Sarah, now 43, James, now 35, and Melissa, now 32 – who’ve six kids between them

‘The toughest factor about it isn’t with the ability to quantify in your thoughts, or any approach in any respect, that your son is definitely lifeless, or that one thing brutal occurred to him, or that he had an accident, or if he wandered off – which we by no means actually thought that he did, however stranger issues have occurred.’

Valerie stated Damien was all the time laughing and taking part in the clown, however was additionally a delicate, caring lad who liked music and needed to develop into a marine biologist.  

‘He was a giant tall pleasant big,’ she recalled. ‘We have been seeing nothing in him that may be alarming or worrying, or alert us to the truth that there was one thing mistaken. There was nothing out of the unusual.’

Pictured together with her daughters Sarah and Melissa in 2004, Valerie says Damien was all the time laughing and taking part in the clown, however was additionally a delicate, caring lad who liked music and needed to develop into a marine biologist

On the Saturday night time Damien went lacking he’d been out along with his faculty pal Christopher, and was final seen on CCTV in a chip store in Cowes earlier than strolling to a bus cease.

Valerie stated he did not appear to be in any rush or working away from something – he was ‘simply consuming his chips’. After that no person noticed him, and there have been no additional sighting on avenue cameras. 

‘We really feel, and have carried out since day one, that Damien’s disappearance was suspect; it was out of character, it is not the form of factor he would have carried out,’ Valerie defined.

She added that she felt let down by the police response when she reported him lacking. The household have been denied a reconstruction of Damien’s actions and a TV attraction for witnesses.

Valerie, pictured with Damien as a child, say her son is the primary and final thing she thinks of every single day

Describing not figuring out what occurred to Damien as ‘very merciless’ , Valerie, pictured together with her son as a child, stated: ‘It is painful to have this unresolved loss, however I do what I can to maintain going’

On the Saturday night time Damien (pictured as a youthful teen) went lacking, he’d been out along with his faculty pal Christopher

The couple and their pals took it upon themselves to assemble proof, chatting with native individuals and asking to see CCTV footage to construct an image of the place he’d been and who with – all of which they handed onto police.

They weren’t allotted a police liaison officer till 2007, after they submitted a criticism – by which level rumours have been circulating the city, which grew to become extra embellished as time went on.

Ultimately the police investigated what Valerie was listening to – that Damien fell foul of  a recognized drug seller, whose pals ‘created havoc within the city’.

‘The jury’s nonetheless out with me on whether or not or not there’s any reality to any of these info,’ Valerie stated. 

The couple and their pals took it upon themselves to assemble proof, chatting with native individuals and asking to see CCTV footage to construct an image of the place he’d been and who with – all of which they handed onto police. Pictured: Damien along with his father Ed

‘I did not know of Damien being concerned in medication in any respect. I did know that he’d smoked pot – so far as the rest, I did not know of the rest that he would have dealings with these individuals over.’

One idea that cropped up was that Damien had attracted consideration to seller Nicky McNamara, who was offended and had beat him up – however he handed away in 2003 from an overdose.  

Hampshire constabulary insist their seek for Damien has been exhaustive, with greater than 1,000 individuals concerned within the investigation and a whole lot of witness statements taken.

Fourteen years after his disappearance, eight suspects have been detained however later launched with out cost.  

‘Ultimately the police took what they have been listening to, native chatter, and determined to arrest a bunch of individuals in 2011, however they could not make something stick,’ Valerie stated.

Hampshire constabulary insist their seek for Damien – pictured as a baby along with his brother James and sister Sarah – has been exhaustive, with greater than 1,000 individuals concerned within the investigation and a whole lot of witness statements taken

‘We have all these prospects that we are able to ruminate on and marvel about, and I do need to marvel if possibly Damien did get overwhelmed up and killed for no matter purpose, nevertheless it’s troublesome, within the warmth of the second like that, for those who weren’t planning it, to go and eliminate a physique, and have it not be discovered in some unspecified time in the future.’

Valerie has by no means stopped on the lookout for Damien, and over time her campaigning has branched out to assist different households of lacking individuals.

She credit the charity Lacking Folks for his or her assist, and has lately printed a guide – The Boy Who Disappeared – about her son.

‘I felt like I wanted to say from the within about Damien and our household and what it has been like for us from a private standpoint,’ she stated.

Eleven years after Damien’s disappearance, eight suspects have been detained however later launched with out cost. Pictured: police search marshland for Damien’s physique in 2011

In 2011, police sifted by means of a silted river mattress in a dramatic seek for the physique of 16-year-old Damien – 5 years after he went lacking

‘It is carried out higher than I would hoped it might do. It is troublesome if you put your self on the market like that, nevertheless it’s our aspect of what occurred and the impact it is had on us.

‘I’d hope that anybody who’s had any loss just like us, that they will have a look at that and see as time went on, we did not simply wallow in our pity; we’re stronger and braver for it.

‘Having a baby lacking places you to the check in so some ways. It may well destroy you or make you stronger.’ 

Valerie stated she has little interest in locking anyone up, however simply desires to know what occurred to her son.

‘I need him again, in no matter approach that’s,’ she stated. ‘It is in all probability going to be within the worst case state of affairs, the stays of Damien, however to me that is infinitely higher than not having something in any respect.

Valerie stated she has little interest in locking anyone up, however simply desires to know what occurred to her son

Valerie (pictured in 2004) has by no means stopped on the lookout for Damien, and over time her campaigning has branched out to assist different households of lacking individuals

‘Even when I bought the bones again, I’d be all the time questioning, “How did this happen and who was responsible?” however simply to know that I’ve him again in by some means is all I can ask for at this level.’  

Valerie and her husband-of-43-years Ed now reside in Dallas, Texas, after Ed – a gross sales supervisor born within the US – misplaced his job within the UK.

The household have been on the verge of shedding their residence whereas he struggled to seek out work and ultimately upped sticks to America in 2001, regardless of Valerie not wanting to depart her hometown, the place she feels closest to Damien.

Their three different kids — Sarah, 43, James, 35, and Melissa, 32 — have six kids between them, and Valerie usually wonders what Damien’s kids can be like. 

Valerie has quite a few social media accounts devoted to discovering Damien, and an lively petition on Change.org for ‘Damien’s Regulation’ – now often called the Lacking Individuals Assist Invoice

‘There’s all the time that disappointment that he is not going to be with us at each occasion – birthdays, deaths even – my dad and mom each handed away not figuring out what occurred to Damien,’ she stated.

‘It is a very merciless factor to not know, it is painful to have this unresolved loss, however I do what I can to maintain going.’

Valerie has quite a few social media accounts devoted to discovering Damien, and an lively petition on Change.org for ‘Damien’s Regulation’ – now often called the Lacking Individuals Assist Invoice – which requires improved communication between events concerned in a lacking particular person’s case.

One in all her suggestions is for funding to be allocation for an unbiased Centre of Excellence for Lacking Individuals (COEMP) to unite professionals in evaluation, specialist coaching, searches, investigation, forensics, and horizon scanning for brand spanking new developments, with a devoted unit for long-term lacking circumstances to make sure that all lacking circumstances get equal consideration and enough and honest funding, with ongoing assist for households. 

Valerie and her husband-of-43-years Ed, pictured with one in every of their grandchildren, now reside in Dallas, Texas

Damien’s case is likely one of the first to be reviewed by the newly established Find Centre for Lacking Folks Investigation.

The organisation works in collaboration with the Universities of South Wales and Central Lancashire, and brings former detectives along with the general public to assist examine unsolved circumstances without charge to households.

Valerie lately printed a guide – The Boy Who Disappeared – about her son

Their evaluate started on November 20, and Valerie hopes it would contribute to bettering how long run lacking individuals investigations are managed and make a distinction to households sooner or later. 

‘I’ve all the time requested an unbiased evaluate and that is fairly near that, by certified and goal skilled ex-police officers,’ she stated.

‘They’ve been clear that I have to handle my expectations and to not count on any nice revelations. My hope is that by trying into Damien’s case – and two different circumstances – they are going to be capable of study and achieve understanding. 

‘I hope it would assist with future circumstances so households who enter this terrible sort of loss will likely be higher supported and have higher communication with an investigating staff. Not everybody might have had points, however sufficient households I do know have, so this isn’t an remoted challenge to 1 police drive.’

For extra details about Find, go to the web site: https://find.worldwide/ or observe them on Twitter.  

Valerie hopes the evaluate into Damien’s case will contribute to bettering how long run lacking individuals investigations are managed and make a distinction to households sooner or later

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