by Nathan Bevan
The sister of missing Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards has revealed that she can't rest until the troubled guitarist is found - alive or dead.
Speaking in depth for the first time since the Blackwood rocker vanished without a trace 15 years ago, Rachel Elias added she still clings on to "a residue of hope" that her brother might still be out there making music somewhere.
"I never dreamt that when Richey disappeared in February 1995 that I'd still be waiting here today wondering where he is," said Rachel.
Edwards had checked out of his west London hotel the morning of an American promotional tour.
"We all just thought he'd missed the plane and would be on the next one out.
"It wasn't until later when we found his passport that we realised he'd had no intention of going in the first place. None of us saw it coming."
She added that after a dark time in 1994 when Edwards' drinking and self-harming spiralled out of control - culminating in him slashing his chest with a knife on stage in Thailand - he underwent psychiatric care and seemed a lot happier.
"Just before the day he vanished he'd been talking to me and our dad about a song the band had been asked to write for a forthcoming Judge Dredd film, he was really excited about that," she added.
But after two weeks the family received news that 27-year-old Edwards' silver Vauxhall Cavalier was found abandoned in an M4 service station car park near the Severn Bridge, a notorious suicide spot, prompting many to immediately assume he'd taken his own life.
"We all went into shock when we heard that, but still had our doubts because the car's steering lock was on and the battery was flat," said Rachel.
"So Richey might simply have been on his way somewhere and just ran out of fuel, or if he'd been living in his car during that time and had run the battery right down from having the engine running and the heater on," she added.
But soon there would be plenty of people turning up at her door with their own increasingly bizarre theories about what had happened to her brother.
"I can understand why they did it, they loved Richey and some of them genuinely believed they were helping and that what they were saying was true.
"But it did make things very difficult for us," said Rachel.
"Their claims ranged from being convinced they'd seen him at hippie market in Goa, a beach in the Canaries and a bar in Fuerteventura - one even said he'd seen my brother living on a farm in Bedfordshire.
"But when the police went there it was turned out to be the farmer's son, who didn't really resemble Richey at all.
"We've even had one psychic who claims to be channelling his spirit to help him write a book!"
Meanwhile, Rachel herself continued to actively search for her missing sibling, going sometimes to extraordinary lengths.
"There were several years where I'd regularly contact coroners either side of the Severn and ask them to inform me whenever they'd receive any male bodies that might match Richey's description and I'd go to identify them.
"It was emotionally exhausting doing that, and each time I'd stand there with my heart in my mouth.
"But it never ended up being him," she added.
"Yet it must have been somebody's brother, you know? Everyone of them was somebody's son who went out one day and never came back, and who, as far as I'm aware, are still waiting for someone to claim them."
Rachel explained that despite Edwards, who would have been 42 this year, being declared legally dead in late 2008 they were still unable to lay his memory to rest.
"Some days I feel a residue of hope that he may still be alive, others I just know deep down he's gone," she said.
"All I know is he wouldn't have meant to leave this dark cloud hanging over anyone, but until he's found - alive or dead - we can't rest."
[Originally published: South Wales Echo, 6 July 2010]