Fears grow as Richey James' car found by Severn Bridge! An on-the-spot Kerrang! investigation!
Richey James left The Embassy Hotel at 7am on February 1st.
The Embassy is a middle-market establishment on London's Bayswater Road. It is well-situated for western motorway routes. It is 146 miles from the hotel to Richey James' flat in Cardiff Bay.
He was reported missing the following morning by Manic Street Preachers' manager, Martin Hall. Police immediately searched Richey's flat with both his father (Graham, a hairdresser in Blackwood) and mother's permission and found his credit cards, passport and drugs prescribed to combat his depression.
It is 119 miles from the Embassy hotel to the Severn View service station on the M4. It was known as the Aust service station until 1991 due to the fact that it is situated on the Aust cliffs overlooking the notorious tidal waters of the Bristol Channel.
Richey James' silver L Reg Vauxhall Cavalier was found abandoned at the Severn View service station on Friday, February 17th. At 3am, it is a cold, grim place. It is a monotonous motorway drive from London to Aust. A pretty sane driver can make the journey in 2 hours. At this time of the night it is utterly deserted. A few drivers are asleep in their cars; cheapskate sales reps claiming for the Travel Lodge on expenses and pocketing the cash.
Inside the Pavilion concourse, there is no sound except the incessant bleeping of the arcade amusements and piped soft Rock muzak. The snack bar is shut. Only the self-service restaurant is open, selling breakfast and coffee to a select herd of hardened travellers.
It's a big place. It serves motorists heading both West (into Wales) and East (towards London), as well as those heading North to Gloucester on the M5. But one structure dominates the immediate surroundings.
The Severn Bridge straddles the Bristol Channel (linking Wales to England) and it is f**king huge. In fact it spans 5,400 ft, weighs 145,000 tons and stands 450 ft above sea level. It was completed in 1966 and built to withstand winds of up to 100mph.
It is impossible to not think about the Severn Bridge when you start trying to think of reasons why Richey James would abandon his car in this particular service station.
Yet despite its imposing size and width, a Bristol news agency told Kerrang! that it was not the preferred option for suicide jumpers.
"It's too cold and windy," said a spokeswoman. "They're depressed enough as it is without having to deal with the weather! The preferred choice is actually the Brunel Suspension Bridge in Bristol (over 30 miles away). You've practically got to line up to get on that one!"
She estimates that only "1 or 2 people a year" jump from the Severn Bridge.
Similarly, Severn Sound Radio's Tim Oakes told Kerrang! that Richey had friends in the area. Yet there is nothing within walking distance of the service station except the M4, the Aust clifftop and weather-smashed fields along the banks of the Bristol Channel. The nearest sizeable town is Thornbury on the B4061. Yet nobody would walk to Thornbury when they own an L-reg Cavalier.
Tim Oakes also explained that the service station was well-known for its lenient parking laws. In most areas there is a 2-hour free parking limit. It you stay longer then you are supposed to pay a surcharge. Yet Tim Oakes knows of people who have left their cars at Severn View for up to three months and incurred no penalty. If this is public knowledge to people from the surrounding area, then Richey was probably well aware that he could leave his car here and not be fined.
So what the hell has happened to Richey James?
No one at the Severn View service station seems to have heard anything about the disappearance. Only the RAC man in the car park remembers hearing something about a missing guitarist from a Rock band on the local news. No one seems to have even heard of the Manic Street Preachers.
It has been reported that Richey shaved off his hair prior to his sudden departure. Assuming that he drove straight to Cardiff (a 3-hour drive) and then returned to Severn View (another hour), it is estimated that Richey would have been seen leaving the service station between 12 noon and 3 pm. Yet no one recalls noticing a slim, small skinhead.
"We get all sorts here," replies the rather prim restaurant manageress.
This morning Severn View rapidly fills up with families heading East for the weekend, and fat business men wearing bad suits wheezing through their heart attack fry-ups. Richey James would have stuck out here like a fish out of water. This is an ordinary plastic wasteland. He probably hates the bloody Severn Bridge anyway.
Richey James is just better than all this...