Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Watch this space

Watch this space
I had a colleague ask me what that meant.  I didn’t realize not everyone understands that saying.  But I guess I assume and one should not assume anything, I have learned.
It has been a frustrating year “watch this space kind of year” and seen a lot of hope dashed onto the rocks.  We started a uk.gov petition asking for Damien’s case to be given extra funding to bring it in line with other high profile cases.  Despite a marathon spurt towards the end, failed to get enough to make it to a Parliamentary mention. 7K in 6 months, not enough.
Over the years I observed how funding & publicity for missing cases is skewed at times. The publicity for young males going missing is typically less noteworthy as young females.  Young men, it is assumed, are out on the town and it’s acceptable for them to be off the radar while they do what boys do.  Girls on the other hand set off all the alarm bells.  Check out the report available online Men Missing on a Night out by Geoff Newiss and Portsmouth University.
In late 2016 I set forth some points on the subject, I called it Damien’s Law.  I set up a new petition to ask the government for better risk assessment when young males especially go missing.  Better case management.  Better treatment of families left behind to cope.  More partnership between agencies involved in a missing case to ensure nobody falls through the cracks.  It’s my hope for a lasting legacy to Damien.  That he did not disappear and our family did not languish in ambiguous loss for nothing.  My hope would be for Damien to be associated with something that would have meaning for future missing cases and make a difference.  Future cases would not be ignored and left until the passage of time becomes too wide to broach.  Left to chance.  We teamed up with Charlie Hedges of Charlie Hedges Advisory who envisions a Center of Expertise for Missing People.   We are also supported my renowned Criminologist Dr. Elizabeth Yardley, Center for Applied Criminology @ Birmingham University in UK.  Professionals including Missing People .  All experts who ascribe to improving the plight of the missing and issues that surround it.
In late 2016 I submitted another complaint to Hampshire Constabulary regarding poor policing and lack of communication; lack of integrity; lack of compassion; lack of clarity.  I also addressed several specific areas where I felt they fell short.  The initial response from the police was to pass this to IPCC as they recognized a loss of faith in their abilities by me.  However, the IPCC handed the complaint back to Hampshire Constabulary.  After some months Hampshire Constabularies response was that some aspects of the complaints were upheld but others were not.  Passage of time, personnel moved on or retired.  Not all the case notes were transcribed from paper to HOLMES database when he was added to Major Crimes to investigate and placed on the HOLMES database.  I appealed these points to IPCC, who then accepted the appeal.  However, they failed to uphold my concerns.  Police apologized to me for shortcomings, poor police work and ensured me things are improved.  My Damien was a practice piece then?  I still see gross negligence happening in missing cases.   I am not convinced things are much better at all.
This has been a depressing time.  The public have supported me and have been the wind beneath my wings.  But it’s not looking hopeful for enough support to make any difference and my hope is fading for a lasting legacy for my son.
As I get older I am more acutely aware that time is ticking and that I may never see any result explaining what happened to Damien.  I have, like many other mothers and family members, spent countless years hashing and re-hashing the movements and every small bit of information, good and bad, that comes my way.  Begging for attention to my son’s case.  Pleading with those who might have any idea.  I have gone to extremes I never imagined I would ever go to look for my son.  It’s emotionally draining and it is physically debilitating to keep it up day after day.  When I try to rest, something comes up to propel me along again.  It is relentless.  The alternative will be to stop and let Damien fade away for good and I can’t imagine doing that any more that I could turn my back on my surviving children when they are in need.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Still missing and still loved.

Still missing and still not properly investigated.

I am weary of armchair detectives and judgmental comments about Damien being out late. I really should not read comments, but there again, I have nothing to hide and can appreciate people will speculate.  He wasn’t given permission to be roaming the streets he was given permission to be at his friends house until such time he called us or stayed over.  We don’t have any excuses other than we thought he was safe enough with his friends.  If we could have foreseen something like this happening, well, hindsight is a fine thing.  Beat myself up every day.

Some people concluded the police have done enough - what I can tell you is they admit they (Police) made mistakes in the early days when it mattered.  Try putting yourselves in our situation knowing your life could have been much different had the police done it right in the first place.  Evidence tossed aside and not looked into when it could have gained results.  We feel let down.

We have speculation turned into Chinese whispers blurring facts.  Damien is an urban legend.   But he is my son, a loved a cherished child.  One wrong night out and we are left bereft but unable to lay him to rest or even know if he is really dead.  If he died,  how did he die, and did he cry for us?  Was it painful.  We hear the stories about being stuck like a pig with a pitch fork - being hit over the head - choking on his own vomit - his beautiful body burned - being cut up and fed to pigs or put into lobster pots. And more.  

We do need to know and are prepared to hear the truth once and for all.  The truth is all we want.  To know the truth would be far better than hearing all the other speculative comments.  

We have, out of desperation, tried everything we could to get to the bottom of it all but still nothing has been able to be proved due to passage of time.  Police complaints suggest they cannot delve back into the poor policing due to passage of time and officers retired/moved on.  

Damien was a lovely lad, life full of promise.  Was he perfect - yes.  And no.  He was a 16 year old boy who was learning about life much like most of his peers.  Was he gullible? Probably not as street smart as some. He was a good person and I still hear from people who tell me of his kindness and how he helped them at times.  

He didn’t deserve to be dismissed by police and brushed under the Council carpet who didn’t want it mentioned during the holidays in case it ‘scared off summer visitors.’  God help those people who successfully thwarted this flawed case due to their inaction's.  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Brain Cloud

This thing between my ears is called my brain. It is what scientists liken to a computer in our head that processes and stores information Ad infinitum which means again and again.  I know this why?? I googled it:

‘Ad infinitum definition, to infinity; endlessly; without limit.’ 

I think of my brain as my iCloud and my iCloud is out of storage space. Where the heck do I get extra storage for my brain??  At my age and after the last lunatic 21 years I feel I have reached capacity. No room, out of space.  Hence with age and limited capacity in the brain cells I am stressed to the max and I don’t always suffer fools gladly.  I misplace my glasses numerous times last week – they were on my head.  I lost my keys that I just put down, but where did I put them?  I lost my iPhone at the gym – the anxiety was physical almost like that of losing Damien – what would I do without it? (not really – nothing can compare to losing Damien.)  I would gladly lose the phone and find the son.  But the odds are stacked against me in finding Damien.

This happens a lot. I feel totally overwhelmed with all aspects of Damien’s case which is sitting up on the dirty cold case shelf being studiously ignored by police in some forgotten place.  I have reports and reports to read then I have reports ‘of’ reports…… and then I have more reports (all churned out on tax payers money) - about an investigation that failed in numerous ways. Police speak - trying to justify the failures and learning from mistakes and things are better now.  No, they are not better, not when you look at some of the recent cases.  21 years they learned little and failed to put that knowledge gained to use by ensuring it doesn’t happen again.  But it does, again and again. Especially when young lads go missing. 

I need to step back and take stock but my brain, bless it, wants to alleviate some of the storage space issues by allowing me to type the words here into a blog.  I have to understand and accept that the lunacy I have experienced in this journey and continue to experience while working with police has always and continues to be abysmal.  It has been an eye opening shocking disappointment and that despite everything they only seem to get abysmally worse in how they deal with the grieving parent of a missing child.  He is NOT a lost puppy….he is my son. Have a heart and forget the formal anal police speak and reach into your soul and treat us like human beings, especially parents of lost boys.  They have not all run off into the sunset never to be seen again because they are all having a “funny five minutes” as I was told.  I know I am not alone in this experience.  Some may have fared better, but too many feel as I do.  Frustrated and disillusioned and disappointed and despairing.

I fear it is only going to get worse as police funding is cut yet again.  Training and policy will be difficult to improve when nobody seems to care.


I care.  Help me get this petition before the eyes of those who might be able make a difference.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Creating Hope from the darkness

Life as we knew it was cast away from its course into dark and deep waters of despair and confusion.  Dealing with what is known as “ambiguous loss” has been a long journey with many hard lessons learned along the way. Lessons about life and family and what is meaningful anymore.  One thing that has grown out of this darkness and continues to lift us is the light that was and still is Damien.  The joy that he brought.  The good and decent person he had become.  Not perfect but delightfully silly and entertaining.  The joy he brought lives with us still.

It is because of this deep confusion, lessons learnt and continued shining light that keeps me focused on making his loss into something meaningful.  It is because he shines as a beacon of hope and joy and we refuse to let his spirit flicker and die.  We continue to strive to make things better for other missing cases.  We will endeavor to ensure that cases are given full, respectful scrutiny by police and other organizations that are involved in any way.  We want all stones turned and nothing left to chance.
Please help us get the support we need.  The momentum is growing for this idea and we are delighted that this call has been taken up by professionals in their fields who see the value of these ideals.  Please sign our petition and support the call for Damien’s Law and the principals that form the manifesto.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Something is not working!

And still they keep on coming – one after the other after the other.

Smiling faces, some full of hope and optimism, some not quite so cheerful, but every one has a story and belongs to someone.

For 21 years we have searched for our missing son and in the process encountered more faces than I can ever remember from all over the world.  Lost souls.  Some come up so many times I get to know a bit about them and have even met their families left behind to cope.  Some are found alive, others are not.  Others like my son are never found and we just do not know what their fate is.
But 21 years and they are still coming – disappeared without trace – out of character – some appeals are big and reach huge audiences but others don’t.
When does one give up?  Never.
If, in the early days everything that can possibly be done IS done then there is fair chance at finding them or what may have happened.
21 years on and social media is a huge asset in getting the story to as many people as possible – but still they come!  Face after face and one has to ask how so many can vanish and their cases languish on a dusty shelf – forgotten.
I am calling for a law that will ensure all cases get the best shot from day one with better risk assessment, especially for young males.
Check out our manifesto and if you think this is a way forward please add your signature – anyone anywhere can sign it. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I never knew you at 17 years old….

You are going to be 37 years old soon and a whole lifetime has passed you by and cheated us out of the joy of watching you grow into the great human being I know you could have been.

It is very hard to come to terms with that idea.

I feel like you’re still with me because I still have not felt that I can let go of you.  You are my child and you vanished for no apparent reason.  When this happened we were are all shell shocked.  In way this is akin to PTSD although nobody ever really thought about it in that way, not for a long time. It does make sense.  I can only speak for myself.  I was in shock for so long and still am to a degree.  I have learned to live with this though still carry around a pain in the depth of my soul.  There are no words to describe this feeling.  I can’t leave you behind and I spend my life thinking about you and searching for answers.

I wonder what my life would be like if I only had to fret about how you’re doing at work or about your life in general.

I carry you still.  I feel the weight of this in my heart and wonder how much longer I can keep this up?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fractured Lives – remembering 20 ½ years on…..

I remember a big tall lad bounding out of the door, catching the door post, poking his head back through the doorway saying “bye mum, see you later”.  He fell back into the room briefly and I told him to be back by 10.30 p.m. to which he replied in a good natured way “awe, mum, I haven’t seen my friends for a week so can I stay out a bit later?”  I replied okay but no later than midnight.  Then off he loped with that big stride, and that lovely smile beaming, to the car where his dad waited to take him to his friend’s house.

Nothing untoward, nothing abnormal or ugly, just this lovely lanky 16-year-old off out to visit his pals. I never saw him again.

The next day we discovered his was missing and our lives have been fractured since.

Over the past 20+ years there have been countless other people who have gone missing but the focus seems to be fixated on a select few.  The issue is much larger.  I have met some of the most amazing people who have suffered this same loss and who have fought valiantly for just a little of the limelight for their own loved one. Not for the glory of the limelight but out of a desperation to get their loved ones face out there in the public eye, “in case”  always in the back of your mind.  “What if” this time we find them? What if we finally get a lead.  What if we finally find out what really happened?  Will someone finally come forward to put an end to our anxiety and our misery and our desolation?  We silently hope against hope even when your gut tells you that you may never know where your child is.

"Here is to all the lost and missing". 

You are are not forgotten and you are missed beyond words and many hearts are heavy with loss.