by Helen Pidd
Richey Edwards's parents finally wind up the affairs of Manic Street Preachers musician
It perhaps shouldn't have been a surprise when the news finally came. After all, it had been almost 14 years since he had disappeared without a trace.
But when word leaked out this week that the parents of Richey Edwards, the missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist and lyricist, had been granted a court order for their son to be legally presumed dead, it hit many of their thousands of fans harder than even they could have imagined.
"I burst into tears after reading this," wrote one fan on the popular band forum, Forever Delayed. "Though I always thought he jumped from that bridge, this news broke my heart."
That bridge is the Severn Bridge, a notorious suicide spot near to which Edwards's car was found 17 days after he first went missing. The last confirmed sighting of the then 27-year-old was at 7am on February 1 1995, when he left the Embassy Hotel in London. Despite recent hospitalisation for anorexia, self harm and alcohol problems, he was supposed to fly to America later that day for a tour. But instead, it seems, he drove to his flat in Cardiff, where he left his passport, credit card and Prozac, before heading for the service station nearest the bridge. Then he vanished.
His mum and dad, Sherry and Graham - both hairdressers in Blackwood, the ex-mining town in Wales where the band all grew up - put an advert in the press appealing for information. It read: "Richard, please make contact. Love Mum, Dad and Rachel." Martin Hall, the band's manager, hired a private investigator. But no word came.
Over the years there have been numerous reported sightings in Goa, the Canary Islands and beyond. But the family have refused to believe he was dead. They opted not to use their legal right to begin presumption of death proceedings in 2002, after he had been missing the usual legal minimum of seven years required for the action to be taken.
But last month they had a partial change of heart, which reflected, according to the family's lawyer, David Ellis, "an acceptance that his affairs have got to be sorted". He added: "That's not the same as an acceptance that he is dead."
Edwards would be coming up to his 41st birthday on December 22. The family can now release assets frozen in bank accounts since his disappearance.
A grant of probate was made on October 13 to release his personal estate of £455,990, which was reduced after liabilities to a net value of £377,548.
The document issued by the Probate Registry of Wales named his parents as his executors and stated that he had "died on or since" February 1 1995. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan police said yesterday that though they had retained an open missing person's file on Edwards, the coroner's declaration now meant the case was closed.
Edwards left no will and had no spouse or children so his entire estate is inherited by his parents under intestacy laws. The decision has the blessing of the surviving three members of the Manic Street Preachers - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore. They have been placing a quarter of the royalties earned by the band in an account for him, should he resurface.
Terri Hall, the band's publicist whose late husband was their first manager, said: " It is hugely emotional for all of us. This is the parents' choice and the band is happy to go with what they decide is best. We all dream Richey will come back one day. But it is no longer a realistic hope and if this offers closure the band will be content with that."
The band did not want to comment on the matter, but there have been various clues throughout the year that they knew Edwards was soon to be put to rest - legally, at least. At Reading Festival this summer, they dedicated their set to their missing bandmate, and this month announced that all the lyrics on their next album, out in the spring, were written by Edwards before he died.
Paul Rees, editor-in-chief of Q magazine, said yesterday: "I think it's very, very interesting that the band have left it until now to use Richey's lyrics again. It remains to be seen whether they will make the album Richey said he wanted to make just before his death, which he described as 'Pantera meets Nine Inch Nails'. But I think it shows some sort of acceptance that he has gone, even if it is at the back of everybody's mind that he might just walk through the door."
Tom Branton, who is working on a new edition of the unauthorised Manics biography, Manic Street Preachers: Sweet Venom, said yesterday: "He was obviously a very ill man, and it seems strange that he would be able to carry off this great escape. But it's still a case of never say never."
[Originally published: The Guardian, 29 November 2008]