Richey Edwards has now been missing for a month, the only clue to his whereabouts is his abandoned car near the Severn Bridge. Andy Richardson heads to Wales in the hope of piecing the mystery together.
The service station where Richey Edwards left his car teems with businessmen, day trippers and young families. It has a spectacular view across the Severn Bridge, which spans the Bristol Channel near the interchange that links the M4 to the M5.
This is where Richey apparently locked his silver Vauxhall Cavalier car on St Valentine's Day then walked away and disappeared. This is the place where the trail ends.
His car is now at the foot of a steep cul-de-sac outside his parents' bungalow in Blackwood, South Wales. It is still in immaculate condition - as you'd expect of any relatively new and under-used vehicle - but it offers no clues. Detectives who searched it say there was no note, no hidden possessions and no indication of where he went.
The same detectives are now pinning their hopes on information from NME readers, who may have seen Edwards or his car between February 1 and February 14.
They are also appealing to owners of hotels and guest houses who may have seen the guitarist and lyricist over the past four weeks.
Detective inspector Frank Stockholm, the man leading the search, told NME: "We are keeping an open mind. It is possible that he is in a hotel or a hospital now. He may also have left the UK and so someone may have seen him at a port (The nearest ferry terminal is Holyhead, which is within reach of the M5 and offers a link with Ireland). But if anyone has any information about where he is, or if anyone saw him or his car between February 1 and 14, they should contact us immediately."
People closest to Richey are bewildered. They have made exhaustive efforts to track him down, contacting hotels, old friends and all his musical acquaintances. They fail to understand why he went away without leaving some sort of explanation.
One person in Newport said Edwards had a very small circle of close friends - his best mate Byron Harris, his mother, the band and one or two others.
Harris, who has known Richey since school, is mystified. He says he will do anything to find out where Richey is.
"If anybody has any information, no matter how small, they should get in touch with the police," he told NME. "It doesn't matter how insignificant or trivial it may seem, they should pass that information on.
"Everybody who knows him has racked their brains. All the angles have been covered and nobody knows what he has done. We can't even think of anyone who he may have gone to see or stay with. Now is the time to ask people to help. Someone may have seen Richard or may have seen his car or may have other information. I've gone through it over and over again in my mind but I don't know where he is. All we can do now is wait."
Police have received no sightings since the guitarist walked out of the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater Road, London, at 7am on February 1. Their only positive clue is the discovery of his car at the Severn View Service Station.
Tom Cassidy, general manager of the service station, said: "His car was spotted on the Tuesday (February 14) by our car park attendant. He noticed it was still there on the Wednesday and reported it to me.
"I reported it to the police - the car could have been a stolen vehicle for all we knew - and on the Thursday they traced it."
Cassidy said none of his staff had seen Edwards and staff at the adjoining hotel said he had not booked a room.
"The car was locked and there were no clues from that as to what may have happened," Cassidy added. "There was nothing suspicious about it at all, no suitcase or note or anything that we could see. We know as little about this as anyone else. We wish we could be more helpful but all we know is the car was here and that's it. Nobody saw him here, but then a lot of people pass through every day."
DI Stockholm added: "Until we have positive sightings there is not much more we can do. All the inquiries that can be made have been. We are now relying on information from other people.
"If Richard Edwards wanted to disappear then he is quite entitled to. Our only concern is for his safety. If he is prepared to contact us in the strictest confidence then we wouldn't pass the details on, we wouldn't tell anybody except for his parents if that is what he wanted. If he is unwell and needs medical treatment then we can arrange that, he can be seen by a police doctor and then he can leave. We just want him to get in touch so we know he is alright."
DI Stockholm said there were no indications that Richey had harmed himself. He said regular checks were being made with coroners and other police forces and detectives remained hopeful that he was well.
"He could have hitched a lift on the M4 or M5 and gone somewhere else. He could have left the country. We are keeping a very open mind. He could be anywhere."
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Friends and musical acquaintances of Richey's in Newport, Blackwood and Cardiff said they were "depressed" by his disappearance. People at TJ's club - where Edwards was last seen in public in mid-January - told NME they were stunned.
"It's all anybody's thought about since he left," one club regular said. "You can see it in people. The people who know him well are very down. He has got a lot of respect, even from the people who don't like his band."
Jeff Rose, of Dub War, toured with the Manics in October. He said: "He was the one who got us the dates with the Manics, we did the tour and it was brilliant. He used to come to all our gigs before we were even signed, and he'd buy our T-shirts and singles. He was really cool.
"But now I'm really worried. It's really f---ing frightening. My mam was saying if I went missing like that it would be horrible. I'm just worried that nobody has seen him. I just hope he's well. But I'm gutted about him going missing because he is such a good man."
Steve Evans, of Novocaine, summed up the feeling of the close-knit Welsh music community.
"He means a lot to people here. I'm not a fan of the Manics' music and I haven't got any of their records but a kindred spirit is a kindred spirit," the singer told NME.
"The feeling is obviously one where we hope he will return. But it's depressing when you think what has happened. I just hope someone does something, someone comes forward and says 'I saw him'. I hope he's found someone and gone off and is having a brilliant time. He's too beautiful for anything to have happened. It's depressing, but hopefully someone knows something."
Meanwhile, old friend Jayne Thomas, of Gouge, said: "Everybody is devastated that he's gone missing. The last time I saw Richey was July and he was saying he wasn't very well. But the man has been such an influence to so many people, he has been to me. If he's just gone away to get his head together and have a bit of a break then I hope he just gives somebody a call."
Anyone with information can contact DI Stockholm on 0222 222 111 or Harrow Road Police Station in London on 071 230 1212.
[Originally published: New Musical Express, 4 March 1995]