Richey Edwards' disappearance is the subject of a half-hour television study to be broadcast by Channel 4 on Saturday (October 5).
"The Vanishing of Richey Manic" is screened at 10pm as part of "Fame Factor", the station's new weekly series dealing with "the realities of fame in the media jungle of the Nineties."
The series tackles its concept via documentaries, films and comedy. Launch night takes over Channel 4 from 8pm to 4.40am, with Richey's item joining programmes on Lynne "Ivy Tilsley" Perrie, star stalkers, Fab Four tribute bands The Bootleg Beatles and The Bootles, and the paparazzi in New York. Also on this week's bill are an episode of "Roseanne" and two films: "A Star Is Born" and "Blow-Up".
The series continues at 11.25pm on each of the following four Saturdays, running through until around four in the morning.
Among its forthcoming events are the film "The Rose" (very loosely based on the later life of Janis Joplin), a feature on rock wives and a special on Brian Connolly, the original - and current - Sweet vocalist who survived 14 cardiac arrests in one night.
The Richey documentary presents the guitarist's disappearance as one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in the history of pop, and it approaches this from several different angles.
Pieces of newsreel and straightforward factual details, dated and chronologically placed, form the thread.
Around this, there are filmed and reported accounts of Richey sightings between his disappearance from a London hotel on February 1, 1995, and the discovery of his silver Cavalier two weeks later, on Valentine's Day, near the Severn Bridge.
Did everybody know that he left an "I love you" note to a mystery girl in his vacated hotel room? That when he allegedly returned to his Cardiff flat, he abandoned his Prozac there, along with his passport and credit cards? That he left the band a photograph of a house, which baffles them to this day?
There are claims that during that same fortnight, Richey tried to obtain a new passport in Newport, talked to a fan at Newport Station and gave a cabbie £40 to drive him around while he ducked down on the back seat like an escaped criminal.
The cab journey allegedly ended at Aust services at the Severn Bridge - the spot where Richey's car was found. What does this tell us?
And what should we deduce from the fact that the Cavalier's battery was flat?
There are interviews with famous and not-so-famous people about Richey's role in Manic Street Preachers, his personal/lyrical anxieties and his fragile - yet self-analytical - emotional condition, the impact he made on some fans who felt either comforted or romantically impressed by his revelations of anorexia, self-mutilation and alcohol abuse, and the escalating problems which led to final withdrawal from a world still doesn't know what happened to him.
There is speculation about his whereabouts now. He's alive. He's dead. There are declarations about the nature of fame itself.
And there is footage of Richey, talking in 1994: "All we've ever been interested in doing is making a record which encapsulates a mood and a time, and then it can be a full stop, you know. Bye Bye."
"Bye Bye, bye bye," the soundtrack echoes.
This is in keeping with the tone of things: the backdrop provides sound effects which hope to imply intrigue. There is no conventional music. The Manics themselves are nowhere to be heard.
Nor, Richey excepted, are they anywhere to be seen other than in images flitting across the screen. They did not participate.
Of the people who did, some are more qualified to discuss Richey Edwards than others.
Fans tell what he meant to them, and why, and what they believe he was all about.
The widow of Joy Division's Ian Curtis offers a reason for her husband's suicide.
Boy George and Shaun Ryder talk about the downside of fame, although Ryder, while typically entertaining, talks in a way that is hardly revelant to Richey's situation: "I wanted money more than fame. I always have done. I liked the idea of fast cars and chicks and go and buy anything I wanted and go and get what shoes I want or anything. Money always ends up never being enough and the cars don't end up being fast enough.
At the cutting edge, Steve Lamacq recalls his 1991 Norwich interview with the band, brought to an abrupt and bloody end when Richey picked up a razor blade and dug "4 Real" into his arm.
The most informed and considered comments come from The Maker's own Simon Price who has worked with the Manics down the years and who conducted their last interview with Richey, when he came out of rehab for his final tour with the band.
Pricey, sporting make-up tears under his left eye and the Manics' song title "Enola Alone" on his right cheek, speaks about Richey's academic ambition.
"He was always devouring knowledge and information... He despised people who go to college and just lie about for three years taking drugs."
According to Pricey, Richey believed that in a library, "you have all the greatest minds of history at your disposal. It's a disgrace if you squander that...
"I do think he intended to stay alive. There's plenty of evidence of that. I hope he's locked up in a cottage in Dyfed or somewhere with a pile of books and I also hope he'll stay there. That's the most humane thing to hope, is that he never comes back.
[Originally published: Melody Maker, 5 October 1996]