Police investigating the disappearance of missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards say that they are taking seriously information received from a man who reported spotting him in Goa, India.
The sighting is one of a string of many since Edwards disappeared on February 1, 1995.
College lecturer and musician Vyvyan Morris, 48, from Swansea, claims he saw the missing star at a hippy market in Goa on November 6. He told NME: "I can't be 100 per cent certain, but I'm sure it was him. I still believe he's out in India and he wants to be left alone."
Richey's mother, Sherry Edwards, who also believes her son is alive, said: "We have heard these rumours in the past and now we're waiting for the police to check it out and see if there are any developments. We're not planning to fly out there, but we're keeping an open mind."
Manic Street Preachers spokeswoman Terri Hall said: "In the past few months, Richey has supposedly been seen in seven different countries, like Berlin, Poland and the US.
"If anyone genuinely feels they have definitely seen Richey, they should call the Metropolitan Police immediately. What use is four months later? But if Richey's out there and alive and well, we're happy. If he wants to get back in contact with us, that's great."
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, who are handling the investigation into Richey's disappearance, said: "We were made aware on February 28 of a reported sighting of Mr Edwards in Goa in November 1996. If necessary, we will be making further enquiries through Interpol."
Police interviewed Morris over the phone on March 3 and told him his story "rang true". A spokesman said afterwards: "We're going to consider the information provided and will decide on the appropriate course of action."
The story was broken on March 2 in the Wales On Sunday by Maria Williams, the newspaper's assistant news editor.
Williams was talking to Morris about Badfinger, the '60s Welsh band. Williams asked Morris, who was good friends with the band in the '60s, if any comparisons could be drawn between the words of their hit 'Without You' and Richey's despairing lyrics.
Morris, a lecturer in media studies at Neath College in West Glamorgan, agreed and then dropped the bombshell that he believed he had seen Richey in India.
Morris told NME his story. He was on holiday in Goa with his girlfriend and had seen Richey at Anjuna outdoor market, a popular hippy and backpacker hangout.
He had momentarily lost his girlfriend, who had their camera, when he spotted the man who he believed to be Richey sitting opposite him in a café. He recognised him, but couldn't quite place his face. Just as he realised who he was, after about five minutes, the man stood up, went outside and boarded a minibus - which is the reason Morris gave for not being able to speak to him.
Morris described the man as "wearing a kaftan top and jeans" with "quite matted longish hair" and that he was "fuller" than the "amphetamine gazelle" he remembered from before. He also said he was "sunburnt and a bit out of it".
Immediately afterwards, Morris asked a hippy sat nearby if he knew who the mystery man was. The hippy, Jeff Reid, originally from Bath who had been in Goa 20 years, told Morris that the man was called Rick, a 'newcomer' who had been there for 18 months.
Morris asserts he is certain that the man he saw was Richey, as he had met him at a gig in Singleton Park, Swansea, in August 1993.
Well-known local singer and musician Morris, who also writes a pop column for the Swansea Evening Post, said he met Richey after getting a backstage pass from the show's promoter.
He said that as soon as he returned to Wales from Goa, he told the editor and reporters at the newspaper he works for, but that they were not interested.
He added: "I was quite pleased. I just thought, 'Good, leave the poor bugger alone.' But my main concern of course was for his parents and family. So I just kept it low-key after that, and then I mentioned it last weekend in that interview about Badfinger, and it's all gone hysterical. I didn't want it to come out like that."
But Wales On Sunday's Maria Williams recognised the possible significance of Morris' story. She added: "It is feasible. And Vyv is not barking mad."
She said she thought the only flaw in the story was that Richey had left his passport behind in the UK when he disappeared.
She added that police in Wales and in London had told her that they were working on the premise that Richey was alive as no body had been found.
Richey's sister, Rachel, also revealed last week that she had been told of other sightings of Richey in Goa before Morris' story.
Morris has asserted that he was not courting publicity and had not received any money from any publications for his story, nor had he taken up any of the tabloid offers of trips back to Goa.
Police have previously followed up leads in Germany, Bedfordshire and South Wales. But there has been a constant stream of supposed sightings and rumours about the whereabouts of Richey.
The most recent of these was that the guitarist had supposedly been spotted in a book shop in London's Charing Cross Road in January this year. Police have refused to comment on the rumour, nor would they comment on or reveal details of any other reported sightings, as they said all open police files were confidential.
Some have even gone as far as to allege that Richey is still sending the band lyrics. Band insiders have pointed out how hurtful they are to Richey's family and friends who would so dearly love to hear concrete confirmation of his whereabouts.
[Originally published: New Musical Express, 15 March 1997]