Police fear for the safety of Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards, who has not been seen since February 1. The whereabouts of Edwards, who has a long history of dysfunctional behaviour, were still unknown as NME went to press on Monday (February 20).
Police discovered his car abandoned at Auste Service Station,near the Severn Bridge, on Friday, February 17.
Richey walked out of the Embassy Hotel, in Bayswater Road, West London, at 7am on February 1 leaving behind medication, toiletries, and a packed suitcase. It is thought he had over £2,000 cash with him. Detectives believe he drove to his home in Cardiff Bay where he left his credit cards, passport and Prozac - which had been prescribed to combat his long-term depression.
Detective Inspector Frank Stockholm, of Cardiff Police, said officers would now search the Severn Estuary. He said: "The river is tidal and it could not be dredged at that point. But we are checking to make certain there are no unidentified bodies that have been washed up.
"We must always look on the positive side. The service station is a place where he could link up with another motorway and hitch a lift."
Richey disappeared on the day he was due to fly to America for a week-long promotional tour with Manics singer James Bradfield.
Richey's father, Graham Edwards of Blackwood, said: "Being in the rock 'n' roll business they are always under a lot of emotional stress, and I think that may have something to do with it. This is completely out of character and everyone's very worried about him. If he needs time to be on his own, that's OK. If he has any problems that we can help with I hope he remembers he's always had strong support from his family and all the lads in the band."
Manics bassist Nicky Wire added: "If Richey does not want to come back then that is fine. We just want him to give us a call. We are genuinely worried. He has never disappeared like this before."
It is understood Richey withdrew £200 a day from his bank account using cash machines during the two weeks leading up to his disappearance. His account has since gone untouched.
Richey was reported missing on February 2 by Manic Street Preachers manager Martin Hall at Harrow Road Police Station in London.
Hall said Richey was cool and calm the night before he left and added: "He seemed fine. There were no signs."
Rob Stringer, the man who signed the Manics and who is now MD of their label (Sony) added: "He was in really good spirits. They'd just been rehearsing and everything was going great. They'd done six new songs and Richey had written two of them. Richey was talking about going to America with James.
"In the morning, James went to Richey's room but he had gone. He'd left behind his clothes and he apparently went back to Wales but that's it."
Stringer added: "What worries people so much is the fact there were no indications. Richey seemed OK - there was no blow-up, no row in the band, nothing. When he was ill last time, his parents and his manager literally had to get him to hospital. Everyone saw it coming but this time there were no signs."
Richey's closest friend, Byron James, said: "Richey would never do anything without a reason. He is a very intelligent man. He wouldn't just disappear like this under normal circumstances. We are all really worried about him. I hope he gets in touch. It's just a total mystery to me. His mum rang last week and said, 'Have you seen my Richey?'. When she phoned it was quite peculiar because Richey knows his responsibilities and he knows about the tour. His mum always knows where he is or what he is doing."
DI Stockholm said: "Richey's family are very concerned. They respect his privacy and members of the group respect his privacy. They just want to ensure that he is alright. If he sees this we'd ask him to contact us or a member of his family. His details have been circulated to police forces nationwide. We'd just urge him to make contact.
Richey is reputed to have cut off his hair about two weeks before his disappearance. Friends say he shaved his head and cut a thin line into his skinhead. Consequently, he looks very different than his recent photos, and representatives of his record label say that if anyone spots him it is likely to be an NME reader.
Friends have not ruled out the possibility that he has fled to Europe with a visitor's passport.
Richey's disappearance comes just six months after he was admitted to a private clinic suffering from mental exhaustion and depression. At the time, James Bradfield said: "He was so ill that he had to go straight to hospital. It got to a point where he realised he couldn't control his little obsessions, basically. He's always been a self-abusive person in every way. And whether you look upon that as perpetuating a self-myth or trying to be iconoclastic is besides the point. When you get past a certain point then you realise somebody is just ill."
It has also emerged that Richey handed the band a sheaf of finished lyrics shortly before leaving, although he left no note explaining his disappearance. Martin Hall added: "He presented a lot of lyrics to the band. It's worrying, but he's the songwriter so that's what he does."
Manic Street Preachers have since cancelled two European gigs - in Vienna (February 11) and Prague (12) - as well as a 26-date US tour between March 8 and April 9. They have also postponed plans to record a track for the forthcoming film, Judge Dredd.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the band has refuted the claim, broadcast on French national radio last Thursday (February 16), that the guitarist had committed suicide.
The spokesperson said: "Richey is missing. No-one knows where he is. But if anyone sees him they should contact the police."
His father Graham added: "Please make contact with us, Richey. Everybody is very worried about you."
Anyone with any information is urged to contact Cardiff Police on 0222 222111.
[Originally published: New Musical Express, 25 February 1995]