by Nick Hopkins; Anne Shooter
They should have been at the ceremony, savouring the remarkable success of their son's band.
But as the Manic Street Preachers trounced even the Spice Girls at the Brit Awards, Graham and Sherry Edwards were sitting quietly at home in South Wales, trying to forget.
Not that they begrudge the group its fortune - the Manics won awards for best album and best band.
Just that in their fading dreams, Richey James Edwards would have been on stage with his three friends, enjoying the euphoria.
Instead he is missing, presumed by the police to be dead. His fans, who have a cultish devotion to him, insist he is alive.
His parents and younger sister Rachel want to believe it too, but their optimism is beginning to wane.
Mr and Mrs Edwards did not watch the news or read yesterday's papers to discover how the band had done, even though their son co-wrote five of the songs on the Manics' latest acclaimed album.
However, they are hoping that the coverage might lure their son back to them, or spur him into ringing or writing.
`We are clinging on, even though we haven't heard anything from him since the day he vanished,' said Mrs Edwards yesterday.
`Until we know for certain that he is no longer with us, we will pray for his safe return. We are his parents, we will not give up on him, but it is getting harder and harder as time moves on.'
Edwards, a bright student from a middle-class home, was last seen alive two years ago. Then 27, he was the guitarist and lyricist of the band, and generally regarded as its creative touchstone.
However, his ten GCSEs, three A-grade A-levels and degree in Political History at Cardiff University ill-equipped him for the pressures of fame.
After the Manics were signed up by Sony in 1991 they scored a string of top 40 hits, reaching Number 7 with a version of the M*A*S*H theme Suicide is Painless. They released three well-received albums, the first two selling more than 100,000 in the UK.
Edwards, however, appeared to be cracking up under the strain. He took to drinking vodka to help him sleep and lost weight dramatically.
In August 1994 he was taken to hospital suffering from nervous exhaustion, and diagnosed as alcoholic and anorexic.
The other band members - James Dean Bradfield, Nick Wire and Sean Moore, all old schoolfriends - patiently awaited his recovery, and did what they could to nurse him back to health.
Within weeks, Edwards was back playing live and writing fresh material. Then, without warning, he took off.
He was last seen at 7am on February 1, 1995, when he checked out of a London hotel and drove to his flat in Cardiff where he left his passport, credit cards and supplies of a drug he was taking for depression.
On February 17 his silver Vauxhall Cavalier was found at a service station on the English side of the Severn Bridge. Police believe it had been abandoned three days earlier.
The likelihood has always been that Edwards committed suicide, but no body has been found.
Also, in the fortnight before he disappeared, Edwards withdrew £200 from his bank account every day as if he was planning some kind of trip.
There have been reported sightings, ascribed by police to well-meaning fans.
The other members of the group are sure he is in hiding somewhere.
`We have heard through other people that the band did very well at the Brit Awards, so we are pleased for them,' said Mrs Edwards, who was at work as usual in the hairdressers she runs with her husband in Blackwood, Gwent.
`But occasions like that are very sad for us. Our son should have been there, we should have been with him.'
The family's bungalow is adorned with photos of Edwards from his childhood days through to stardom. His sister Rachel admitted: `It is getting harder to believe he is still alive. I thought I knew him so well, and the person I knew would not have committed suicide.
`Every time the phone rings we think it might be him. Not knowing is the hardest thing to come to terms with.'
Miss Edwards still speaks to Nick Wire, who rings occasionally to see if there has been any news. `No doubt Nick will ring me to tell me about the Brit Awards,' she said. `He was very close to Richey and won't accept he is gone.
`Funnily enough, I don't think their success will encourage Richey to make contact if he is still alive.
`He didn't like being famous, and I don't think he would want to get back with the band. But it might just remind him that we are still here and that we are desperate to hear from him.'
Until he calls, or his body is found, his royalties - thought to be up to £1million - will be kept in a trust fund.
As the band recovered from a party held its honour by Sony yesterday, a spokesman said: `The Brit Awards was a very emotional occasion for them. I know they think about Richey all the time and perhaps one day he will call them and return.
`Until then they have to cope as a three and try to put the past behind them. We all hope he is still alive.'
[Originally published: Daily Mail, 26 February 1997]