? [This is probably not as originally published!]
by Chris Watts
Fears grow as Richey James' car found by Severn Bridge! An on-the-spot Kerrang! investigation!
Richey James left The Embassy Hotel at 7am on February 1st.
The Embassy is a middle-market establishment on London's Bayswater Road. It is well-situated for western motorway routes. It is 146 miles from the hotel to Richey James' flat in Cardiff Bay.
He was reported missing the following morning by Manic Street Preachers' manager, Martin Hall. Police immediately searched Richey's flat with both his father (Graham, a hairdresser in Blackwood) and mother's permission and found his credit cards, passport and drugs prescribed to combat his depression.
It is 119 miles from the Embassy hotel to the Severn View service station on the M4. It was known as the Aust service station until 1991 due to the fact that it is situated on the Aust cliffs overlooking the notorious tidal waters of the Bristol Channel.
Richey James' silver L Reg Vauxhall Cavalier was found abandoned at the Severn View service station on Friday, February 17th. At 3am, it is a cold, grim place. It is a monotonous motorway drive from London to Aust. A pretty sane driver can make the journey in 2 hours. At this time of the night it is utterly deserted. A few drivers are asleep in their cars; cheapskate sales reps claiming for the Travel Lodge on expenses and pocketing the cash.
Inside the Pavilion concourse, there is no sound except the incessant bleeping of the arcade amusements and piped soft Rock muzak. The snack bar is shut. Only the self-service restaurant is open, selling breakfast and coffee to a select herd of hardened travellers.
It's a big place. It serves motorists heading both West (into Wales) and East (towards London), as well as those heading North to Gloucester on the M5. But one structure dominates the immediate surroundings.
The Severn Bridge straddles the Bristol Channel (linking Wales to England) and it is f**king huge. In fact it spans 5,400 ft, weighs 145,000 tons and stands 450 ft above sea level. It was completed in 1966 and built to withstand winds of up to 100mph.
It is impossible to not think about the Severn Bridge when you start trying to think of reasons why Richey James would abandon his car in this particular service station.
Yet despite its imposing size and width, a Bristol news agency told Kerrang! that it was not the preferred option for suicide jumpers.
"It's too cold and windy," said a spokeswoman. "They're depressed enough as it is without having to deal with the weather! The preferred choice is actually the Brunel Suspension Bridge in Bristol (over 30 miles away). You've practically got to line up to get on that one!"
She estimates that only "1 or 2 people a year" jump from the Severn Bridge.
Similarly, Severn Sound Radio's Tim Oakes told Kerrang! that Richey had friends in the area. Yet there is nothing within walking distance of the service station except the M4, the Aust clifftop and weather-smashed fields along the banks of the Bristol Channel. The nearest sizeable town is Thornbury on the B4061. Yet nobody would walk to Thornbury when they own an L-reg Cavalier.
Tim Oakes also explained that the service station was well-known for its lenient parking laws. In most areas there is a 2-hour free parking limit. It you stay longer then you are supposed to pay a surcharge. Yet Tim Oakes knows of people who have left their cars at Severn View for up to three months and incurred no penalty. If this is public knowledge to people from the surrounding area, then Richey was probably well aware that he could leave his car here and not be fined.
So what the hell has happened to Richey James?
No one at the Severn View service station seems to have heard anything about the disappearance. Only the RAC man in the car park remembers hearing something about a missing guitarist from a Rock band on the local news. No one seems to have even heard of the Manic Street Preachers.
It has been reported that Richey shaved off his hair prior to his sudden departure. Assuming that he drove straight to Cardiff (a 3-hour drive) and then returned to Severn View (another hour), it is estimated that Richey would have been seen leaving the service station between 12 noon and 3 pm. Yet no one recalls noticing a slim, small skinhead.
"We get all sorts here," replies the rather prim restaurant manageress.
This morning Severn View rapidly fills up with families heading East for the weekend, and fat business men wearing bad suits wheezing through their heart attack fry-ups. Richey James would have stuck out here like a fish out of water. This is an ordinary plastic wasteland. He probably hates the bloody Severn Bridge anyway.
Richey James is just better than all this...
by Jason Arnopp
In November '93, the Manics toured Japan. I went to Tokyo to do their first K! cover story.
The Richey James I saw seemed fine - changeable in mood, but generally more 'up' than down. He's an impeccably polite, gently-spoken character, and an interviewer's godsend.
Despite missing his dog, and remarking that "I never find it exciting to go anywhere - if I want to know about France, I'll buy the book", he was obviously having quite a good time.
On the first night, he went with everyone else to a restaurant, then to an arcade where he happily chatted away about the treatment of women in Japan. He won a toy elephant on a 'grabber' machine. He slept so soundly in his room, he completely missing the mild earthquake that night.
Next evening, after a fine Manics show, Richey sat alone in the dressing room, smoking a cigarette - a solitude he appeared to need at times. He'd only been smoking two weeks, but he was already on 50 a day.
"Whenever I do something, I do it a lot," he explained.
His hotel room was littered with books, toys and other gifts that the adoring Japanese fans had given him, plus loads of hygiene-related products. He's a self-confessed hygiene fanatic.
On the last few nights of the trip, he stayed in his room, as did bassist Nicky Wire. But while everyone knew that Nicky was writing letters and phoning his wife, there was the suspicion that Richey would, frankly, be getting drunk or possibly hurting himself.
James Dean Bradfield dutifully laughed off suggestions that Richey was on a bottle of vodka a day with, "Yeah, but only little ones out of the mini bar!", adding that Richey was too smart to really screw himself up.
And that's what everyone relied on. Make no mistake, Richey is an extremely intelligent person. But sometimes thinking too much can become a problem and, halfway through '94, Richey was taken ill. The press talked about severe depression, alcoholism and anorexia nervosa. The band were forced to reluctantly continue without him at Reading.
Richey's relentlessly downbeat outlook had gone from being one of the things that fed the Manics creativity so well, to something that prevented him from functioning 'normally'.
A few months later, though, onstage at London's Astoria in December, he appeared to be enjoying the whole gig buzz again. But the very concepts of fame and success have always posed a dilemma for Richey.
After the Manics supported Bon Jovi at their Milton Keynes Bowl shows in '93, he said: "The enormity of it all was quite frightening. You ask yourself, 'Would you really like to do this every night?'."
This has surely been one of the many conflicts rolling around in his troubled head ever since. And if any more evidence of his very real problems was needed, he has vanished. All we can do now is wait for him to return, think of his family and friends, and hope that he's alright.
Richey James - the story so far!
February 1 - On the day he is due to fly to America with James Dean Bradfield for a promotional trip, Richey walks out of the Embassy Hotel, Bayswater Road, London at 7am. He leaves a packed suitcase in his room. Police now believe he initially drove back to his flat in Cardiff.
February 2 - The Manics' manager, Martin Hall, reports Richey missing at Harrow Road police station in London.
February 3 - Several people are believed to have claimed to have seen, and in one case spoken, to Richey in Newport, South Wales on this day. At least one of them has apparently since been interviewed by the police.
February 15 - The South Wales Police release a statement publicly announcing that Richey has gone missing, and appealing for information about his whereabouts.
February 17 - Police discover Richey's car, a Vauxhall Cavalier, abandoned at Severn View service station, near the Severn Bridge. Police decide to search the Severn Estuary to ensure that no 'unidentified bodies' have been washed up. Various newspapers report that Richey has not used any credit cards since he disappeared.
February 21 - A TV news report implies that police believe Richey will not be found alive. But a spokesman from the Crime Desk at Cardiff Central Police Station tells Kerrang! that they are still keeping an "open mind" about his whereabouts. He points out that Richey could have easily hitched a lift from Severn View service station.
February 22 - Richey's Dad, Graham Edwards, broadcasts a message on Radio One begging his son to phone home.
February 23 - Cardiff Central's Crime Desk tells Kerrang! that have been 'no further developments' in the search for Richey James...
[Originally published: Kerrang!, 4 March 1995]