Police have stepped up the hunt for missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards. Although it had been widely believed that police efforts had been scaled down, the officer in charge of the search revealed this week that the past 12 months had been a non-stop quest to track him down.
But in spite of a concerted police effort, no clues have helped PC Michael Cole to get any closer to Richey.
PC Cole, from the Metropolitan Police's Missing Persons Desk in Paddington, took command of the case at the beginning of last year.
He said: "The search for Richey has been stepped up substantially. In fact, more has been done in the last 12 months than was done in the previous three years. I have been in touch with Interpol. I have contacted every coroner's office in Britain, every sanctuary and every religious body.
"I have a file here that is six inches deep - full of inquires from the last year."
PC Cole says he has been in constant contact with Richey's family throughout.
He says he is keeping an open mind as to Richey's whereabouts, and hasn't ruled out the possibility that alleged sightings in Goa and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands were genuine.
He continued: "There have been a few clues, but none has revealed his location. He certainly has the wherewithal, intellectually, to be anywhere he wants to be."
PC Cole said he is currently re-examining the evidence he has collected over the last year for any tiny clues that may have been overlooked.
And he hinted that Richey could well be alive.
He said: "I've got to keep an open mind. There is no evidence to suggest that he is not living. I do not see any reason why the search for Richey Edwards should stop."
Richey was last seen by fellow Manic James Dean Bradfield on February 1, 1995, in a London hotel, on the eve of a promotional trip to the US.
His car was later found abandoned at the old Severn Bridge M4 services.
Since his disappearance, a bank account has been set up to hold Richey's share of the Manics' royalties - rumoured to be more that £1 million - in trust.
By February 1, 2002, if Richey has still not been found, he can be officially declared dead and the cash bequeathed to his family.
The law currently allows a missing person seven years' grace before declaring them gone for good.
Meanwhile, Nicky Wire has declared that the Manics will not be granting any political party permission to use "A Design for Life" in the Welsh Assembly campaigns.
This follows reports that the band had refused permission to the Labour Party in order to give the song to Plaid Cymru.
Wire added: "Regarding next week's assembly elections, I'll be voting Labour, as I always do."
Simon Price's "Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers)" is published by Virgin on May 20. It hints that the Manics may release over 60 unpublished lyrics left by Richey before his disappearance. Nicky Wire talks of "spine-tingling stuff" that may emerge as a book of poetry.
[Originally published: Melody Maker, 8 May 1999]