The mother of missing Islander Damien Nettles has welcomed a £20,000 reward for information but said it is a long time coming.
The money is being offered by Hampshire Police, as the sixteenth anniversary of Damien's disappearance approaches. The 16-year-old went missing on a night out with friends in Cowes on 2 November, 1996.
Speaking from her home in Texas to ITV Meridian, Val Nettles said: "I've been asking for that for several years, on and off, but always met with resistance in the past. But all I can say now is that I am glad they are doing it and we'll move forward from this point. 16 years is a long time, but hopefully the money will entice people to come forward that haven't done so before. It's quite a substantial reward, so water under the bridge, we'll move forward from this point - I'm glad this is being done now."
And she repeated previous appeals for information to find her son: "Please, if there is somebody out there that knows something, we would just love for you to come forward and take advantage of this opportunity. I just want Damien back, I just want Damien's remains and I would like to be able to pay respect to Damien and just know where he is, just know where my boy is."
Senior Investigating Officer Superintendent Dave Powell said: “The police’s commitment to find out what happened to Damien is unwavering and undiminished. Our resolve remains to secure reliable evidence that can confirm his whereabouts.
“The biggest challenge we still face is separating fact from fiction because a vast amount and range of information about Damien’s disappearance has been received.
“For the past three years, it has been important for the Major Investigation Team to concentrate on analysing and acting upon the information already passed to police by the local community.
“This led us to arrest eight people who were questioned over the course of a year, and later released with no further action. Officers needed to focus on completing existing enquiries while multiple suspects were on bail.
“We did not charge anyone with a criminal offence, but those decisions were not the end of our investigation. Murder or foul play cannot be ruled out," he added.
Appeal for fact not fiction
Senior Investigating Officer Supt Powell continued: “Regrettably we must always be mindful that there have been many false and potentially malicious pieces of information from the public, plus conjecture and rumour.
“I am interested in information based on facts, which can be assessed and verified in line with our standards and procedures.
“Police recognise that some people may have been worried about sharing what they know over the past 16 years. However, for anyone able to genuinely help – now is the time for you to examine your conscience and motives. Ask yourself a simple question? – can you really tell us what happened to Damien?
“We continue to keep an open mind, but I stress that speculation, gossip and the spreading of rumours won’t help the police and the Nettles family find the answers we seek in this investigation.”
Last sighting of Damien
The last confirmed sighting of Damien was on CCTV at Yorkie’s fish and chip shop in West Cowes High Street at approximately 11.35pm on the night he disappeared (Saturday, November 2, 1996).
At the time of his disappearance, the description of Damien was:
- Six foot three inches tall
- slim build
- short brown hair, shaved at the back
- brown eyes
He was last seen wearing:
- A black fleece jacket
- Dark blue jeans
- Black boots
Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 and asking for the Major Investigation Team at Fratton police station in Portsmouth or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.