by Jonny Massey
Five years to the day since the Manics' Richey Edwards went missing, detectives say the case is still open. The guitarist was last seen at a hotel in London in 1995. Despite sightings abroad, no-one knows for sure whether he's dead or alive.
The only clues to Richey's disappearance are an abandoned car, a British passport, and a two pound 70 Severn Bridge toll receipt. They were found in his flat, the car found at a well known suicide spot on the M4. He vanished after telling his mum he didn't want to go on a promotional tour of America. No body has ever been found. Mary O'Mara started a fanzine when he disappeared: "It just threw me. It threw me more than I thought it would. It took a while to come to terms with. I found myself crying about it and getting very upset," she says.
The Melody Maker's Ian Watson says they've asked their readers to send in photos and their memories of him: "I can't think of any icon of the 90s who meant as much to the fans as Richey did." He adds that: "I would say of the last 20 years, he's been one of the famous icons to appeal to that range of fans."
"I think the other thing is he was extremely eloquent in describing acutely what it's like to be anorexic, what it's like to be a self-abuser," Ian Watson says. "A lot of sensitive, impressionable fans have picked up on that. And I don't mean impressionable in a naive way... but that they've actually managed to understand what he's on about."
The band are said to be quietly marking the anniversary in their own special way. Nicky Wire talked about the first few weeks after Richey went, on a recent TV documentary: "There were two or three months when you really felt just every phone call, every knock at the door, every single thing was totally related to his disappearance," he says. "If you missed the phone and pressed 1471 and it's number you didn't know, you think 'Oh, was that him?', y'know."
There have been numerous Richey sightings reported by the press, over the past five years:
"Missing Manic Star spotted in Canary Islands"
"Missing Richey - a hospital patient"
"Is Richey in a hippy retreat?"
His family believe he fled abroad to start a new life. Nicky Wire says whatever has happened to him, he did it for himself: "If I thought he was mentally unstable then I'd feel awful about it. But to think that he controlled what he wanted to do, then it just gives me some grain of comfort."
Police say the missing person file is still open. Mary O'Mara says she's convinced he's still out there: "Somewhere, nobody knows him. But I think he still is."
[Originally published: bbc.co.uk, 1 February 2000]