by Andrew Young and Nick Constable
It has been 13 years since he mysteriously disappeared but now the fate of missing rock star Richey Edwards has been finally settled - in legal terms, at least.
There have been dozens of unconfirmed 'sightings' of the Manic Street Preachers guitarist and songwriter, public appeals and claims from band members that 'things don't add up'.
Now, however, his parents Graham and Sherry Edwards have been granted a court order for their son to be presumed dead.
The move is said to be 'hugely emotional' for the other three band members - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore - who still dedicate songs to Edwards hoping he might one day return.
Described as a tortured genius, it is widely believed that Edwards, 27, took his life by jumping from the Severn Bridge although no body has ever been found.
He was last seen at 7am on February 1, 1995, in London's Embassy Hotel as he prepared to fly to America for a tour.
After driving to his flat in Cardiff, where he left his passport, credit card and Prozac pills, he headed for the service station next to the old Severn Bridge. His car was found there 17 days later.
Because no body was discovered conspiracy theories soon began to circulate. In 1997, a college lecturer claimed to have seen Edwards getting on a bus in the hippy resort of Goa, India.
The following year, a barmaid in the Canary Islands told a newspaper how one customer had run for the door after being told: 'You're Richey from the Manic Street Preachers.'
Earlier this year, Nicky Wire reignited the debate, telling the NME: 'There's still things that don't add up.'
The band even maintain an account in his name to receive a quarter-share of his song royalties.
However, their long-time friend and publicist Terri Hall told The Mail on Sunday they supported the family's decision.
'The band has been aware this was coming,' she said. 'It is hugely emotional for all of us. This is the parents' choice and the band is happy to go with what the parents decide is best. We all dream Richey will come back one day. You hope he is still around somewhere.
'But it is no longer a realistic hope and if this offers some kind of closure then the band will be content with that.'
Edwards' parents, staunch Methodists from Blackwood, Gwent, were entitled to begin presumption of death proceedings in 2002 - the minimum seven-year period required before a missing person can legally be declared dead.
But they refused, hoping that their son's apparent suicide was a ruse to reinvent himself away from the pressures of the music business.
Yesterday, they would not discuss their change of heart. But the family's lawyer, David Ellis, said it reflected 'an acceptance that his affairs have got to be sorted'.
He added: 'That's not the same as an acceptance that he is dead.'
In a separate move, his parents were also granted control of his estate.
The document issued by the Probate Registry of Wales names his parents as executors and states that he died 'on or since' February 1, 1995.
Because Edwards died without leaving a will, and had no spouse or children, his entire estate of £455,990, reduced after death duties to £377,548, is inherited by his parents.
Edwards spent much of his adult life suffering from depression, anorexia and bouts of self-mutilation. In 1991, he used a razor to carve '4Real' on to his arm in front of a journalist - an attempt to prove his artistic convictions.
But friends insisted he was not the type to contemplate suicide. And in 1994, he was quoted as saying: 'In terms of the S word, that does not enter my mind.'
[Originally published: The Mail on Sunday, 23 November 2008]