Last night’s Cutting Edge film was a powerful, sad and evocative insight into what happens when someone goes missing. The entire programme was made by Zoe Callan – from filming to directing to providing comfort to those she filmed – and it was all the better for it. After all, having someone go missing must be one of the most devastating things that can happen to those who love them so it seemed somehow appropriate that Callan kept the ‘crew’ to the bare minimum.
These people’s lives have been turned upside down and everything about them examined by police in their efforts to trace whoever’s gone missing, so further intrusion by dozens of film folk wouldn’t have seemed right, and Callan got the balance just right; we saw raw emotion, exasperation, fear, hard police work made harder by incompetence and the terrible bewilderment when someone goes missing and of course the inevitable, why?
It’s a shocking fact that some 300 people are reported missing every week in Greater Manchester alone and although most of them turn up, some of them don’t; it’s the same up and down the country and when someone goes missing, the first 72 hours are vital to the police. If the person isn’t found within that time, it becomes less likely they ever will be…
Last night we heard about three cases but the one that struck me the most – primarily because he’s never been found and his desperate family struggle nearly six years on to cope with not knowing what’s happened to him – was that of Vinnie Derrick.
On August 29th 2003, he’d been on a night out with his mates and had called his boss to tell her he was getting a taxi to her house – where he was due to stay the night – and has not been heard from or seen since.
Vinnie had no reason to ‘want’ to disappear; he’s the proud dad of little Lewis, who tragically said, “Someone might have took his money so he can’t get a taxi back.”
That poor little boy with such a simple answer to an otherwise unknowable mystery made it all the more tragic and sad and moved me greatly.
His mother Vonnie told BBC News a month after Vinnie went missing, “I’ve got a beautiful grandson who Vinnie dotes on but you don’t expect this.
“It’s the not knowing. It’s just as though he has vanished off the Earth – no sightings, no nothing.
“I think he is… I don’t think there’s much hope for him now. If anybody did know where he was, if he was just mugged or something, he would have been found.
“So to me, he’s somewhere where nobody wants to find him.”
His wife Vicky told how there’d been no row, no marital rift… nothing that might cause Vinnie to choose to walk out on his life. And the police have been doing everything they can to help find him including reconstructions of his last known movements, dredging canals and ponds and checking into when and where his phone was last used among many other enquiries, but still, Vinnie is missing.
This is a video appeal that was made for information about Vinnie…
It’s hard to imagine the anguish of his family, and of course of the families of those missing up and down the country; and as Vonny said, it’s the not knowing what’s happened to the person who’s missing and of course, whether he or she is dead or alive must be a crippling agony to live with.
As I mentioned, there were two other cases covered last night, one of which was of Josephine O’Hara who seemed to me to be a somewhat cantankerous 81 year old lady who’d stormed out of her daughter’s house after an argument with her life’s savings of £10,000 in her handbag. Three days later, her daughter Pauline contacted the police.
Obviously elderly and vulnerable, police feared the worst when no trace of Josephine was found – and they didn’t even have a photograph of her at the time – however, it transpired that Josephine had gone to her GP and said she simply couldn’t live with her daughter any longer. The GP arranged a care home place for her but nobody told her desperately worried family, or indeed the police, where Josephine was. This oversight was, we were told, that was due to a “clerical error”. Quelle surprise… but that error cost thousands of pounds in police man-hours and infinite worry for her family.
Josephine was interviewed at the care home and told Zoe Callan that she didn’t think her family would care if she was missing and didn’t want them to know where she was. “I was so happy the moment I walked out of that house. I couldn’t be happy there.”
However, at the end of the programme, as the credits rolled, we were informed that a few days after filming, Josephine moved back in with her daughter, who candidly said of her mother,
“Sometimes she’s great. Most of the time she’s horrible” so I wonder how that’s going to work out?
Then there was 25 year old Adam Warren, father of a baby daughter Ellie and girlfriend of Katie. 36 hours after he left home for an appointment at the Job Centre, there was no sign of him and nobody knew where he was or what had happened to him.
His mother said, “You don’t know what goes on in other people’s minds. You think you know them and you might be completely wrong.”
However, Adam was traced in short order by the police who put a trace on his mobile. He’d basically been hiding out and his mother – on hearing he’d been found – told Katie, “Brace yourself… Don’t get upset, get bloody angry! The police think he’s on a bender.” Then she wept, despite the good advice to Katie not to, and said with bewilderment in her voice said, “What’s so bad he couldn’t come home?”
When he was interviewed, Adam told how he just “wanted a bit of space” as he stared out of the window. He admitted he’d been out on a drinking binge because he was feeling stressed and pressurised by being a dad and not having a job. He apologised to his mum and his girlfriend and seemed genuinely sorry after being justifiably railed at for his disappearing trick.
If you know someone who’s missing or think you can help find someone like Vinnie and put an end his – or any other – family’s desperate plight, Channel 4 have put together a ‘Support’ page with numbers and websites you can contact. You can see it here