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TEN-YEAR TORTURE OVER MISSING SON

Thursday, October 26, 2006 - 11:06

By Suzanne Pert
MIND-boggling, gruesome and like a torture were how Valerie Nettles described the last ten years since her oldest son, Damien, vanished from the streets of Cowes after a night out.
As the days and weeks passed since his disappearance on November 2, 1996, initial optimism that he would soon walk through the door of the family home in Woodvale Road, Gurnard, turned to bafflement and a deep, raw despair.
Although ten years have passed and the pain is no longer so intense, Damien is never far from his mother's thoughts.
She has not had a proper night's sleep since he disappeared and it is in the small hours the most gruesome thoughts invade her mind — images too bleak to share even with her husband, Ed.
Speaking to the County Press from her new home in Flower Mound, Texas, Mrs Nettles said: "It gets a little easier with time because you learn to live with it. But, at the end of the day, where did he go? How can something like that happen and nothing be found?"
Asked if she thought Damien was still alive, there was a long pause before she answered.
"I am probably thinking more 'no' but I cannot say no completely because there is always that tiny glimmer of possibility that something else might have happened.
"What if he got in with the wrong sort of crowd and his mind has gone? Maybe he got amnesia but all those possibilities are more and more remote the longer it goes on."
One of the more widely held theories is he fell into the sea on his way home that night but, asks Mrs Nettles, why has no body been found?
In the past couple of months she has made an official complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which has been passed to the standards office of Hampshire Constabulary. Mrs Nettles' complaint concerns the initial handling of the case.
"The detectives were looking at us as a family, talking to us all in separate rooms, rather than searching for Damien.
"The police did not do anything until the media got involved, yet the first 24 hours after a disappearance is crucial," said Mrs Nettles, who has also complained police lost CCTV footage showing Damien in Yorkie's chip shop just before he disappeared.
Speaking about next Thursday's anniversary she said: "It is just mind-boggling that ten years have passed. To a lot of people it is old news and why drag it up again, but to us it is just like yesterday.
"It is just a torture we all live with."
It has affected in different ways her other three children and Ed. They all get on with their lives but it is always there.
"Ed has just been made redundant as the marketing manager for a local removal company, which is another glitch we could have done without.
"My son, James, who took it worst but is fine now, was married in September. Even though the wedding day was a celebration, there is always someone who is not there," said Mrs Nettles, 54.
Hampshire detectives are renewing their appeal for information.
Det Supt Dave Williams, who is in charge of Operation Ridgewood, said the case was undergoing an internal review to ensure that all possible lines of inquiry had been identified and pursued.
"This remains a missing person investigation, rather than a homicide inquiry," he said.
He said extensive police searches of the waterfront and foreshore in Cowes were carried out, all of Damien's close friends and associates had been interviewed and re-interviewed.
Extensive enquiries had also been made with a number of agencies and several British embassies abroad.
Although there had been responses to appeals on television and in newspapers, none had proved positive.
"We would encourage anyone, particularly those on the Island to come forward with any information they may have in respect of Damien's disappearance, no matter how insignificant it may seem," said Det Supt Williams.
Full report and timeline in the Friday, October 27, County Press.

 


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