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Richey Manic, Rest In Peace - South Wales Echo, 1st February 2002

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ARTICLES:2002



Title: Richey Manic, Rest In Peace
Publication: South Wales Echo
Date: Friday
Writer: Greg Lewis


Missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards can now be officially presumed dead.

Seven years on from the star's disappearance, the law can be satisfied he will not return.

His family naturally continues to cling on to hope and have said they will never declare him dead. The band too still considers him missing.

In a joint statement today, they said only: "Richey is still missing and we still miss him."

The troubled musician was last seen when he walked out of a London hotel on February 1, 1995. His car was later found near the Severn Bridge but his fate has since become the stuff of rock legend.

For his family and friends, though, the heartbreak is real and will remain.

Nobody knows what drove Richey to disappear. The arguments went in circles during the years after his death. The pressure of fame or the power of increasing depression.

Money worries. A bust up with his girlfriend. Even the death of his family pet dog.

The presumption of death arises in a case where there is "no acceptable affirmative evidence" a person was alive during a continuous seven-year period or people who were likely to have heard from the person have not. It would still take a legal challenge to his family to draw that legal line under the mystery.

Richey James Edwards - known often to fans as Richey James - would now be 35.

He was an essential part of one of the most exciting bands to burst onto the scene in the early 1990s.

They were just four childhood friends from Blackwood but when they formed the Manics in 1988 they were on a road lined with controversy and acclaim, success and tragedy.

Richey set the scene early on, cutting "4 real" into his arm during an interview.

Then, following a change of heart, they performed the song Repeat live on Channel 4's The Word instead of the single Love's Sweet Exile. Repeat features the line "**** queen and country".

They also got into a fight during a concert at a Cambridge University ball.

In February 1992, the band released their first album, Generation Terrorists.

Subsequent records Gold Against the Soul (1993) and The Holy Bible (1994) were increasingly bleak.

Warning bells sounded in August 1994 when Richey was admitted to hospital in Cardiff for "nervous exhaustion".

Rumours of a suicide attempt were neither confirmed nor denied. A statement later admitted he was suffering from "mental illness".

Then, during mid-January 1995, according to some sources, Richey began to draw pounds 200 a day from his bank account.

At 7am on February 1, he left the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater, London, where he and fellow band member James Dean Bradfield had stayed after a rehearsal. He drove home, leaving his clothes in the hotel room. He also left a note saying, "I love you", presumed to be directed to his American girlfriend.

The following day he was reported missing. Police later found his passport, credit cards and Prozac at his Cardiff Bay flat. He had not used his credit cards or withdrawn money since his disappearance.

His fellow band members cancelled a tour of the USA and his father Graham made an emotional appeal for him to get in touch: "Please make contact with us - everybody is very worried about you."

On February 17, the police found his silver Vauxhall Cavalier at Aust Service Station near the Severn Bridge. But videotapes of the bridge were to shed no light on the mystery.

The disappearance of anybody in distress creates sadness but when that someone is a rock star there's always a wider sense of loss. There were fears for young music fans and the Samaritans linked up with Melody Maker to target people with problems exacerbated by Richey's disappearance.

A few years later the mother of Derbyshire Manics' fan Christopher Goodall, 16, would say he had "copied" Richey.

Christopher drowned in the Severn after making a "pilgrimage" to the scene of the star's disappearance.

Then there were the Richey sightings. Many were dismissed but police called a sighting in Goa, India, by Swansea musician Vyvyan Morris in November 1996, their "best lead yet".

On the third anniversary of his disappearance the Missing Persons Helpline launched a nationwide appeal to trace Richey. A reminder this was not about the fans but about a real family.

The helpline hoped the appeal, which was featured in the Big Issue, would bring comfort to Richey's parents, Graham and Sherry.

The band was getting on with its own life - the album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours marked a full break with the past. Gone was Richey's direct influence on the songs.

Then, in November 1998, Richey was "spotted" in Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. That Christmas Richey's parents flew out to the island. Mum Sherry said: "It is very hard to do nothing when your son has been missing for four years.

"We think about him all the time and pray that we will see him again one day."

At the beginning of 1999 there was confusion over the police attitude to the case.

Simon Price's book Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers) revealed the officer in charge of the missing persons' file had said it would be an "infringement of civil liberties" to continue to hunt him.

However, PC Michael Cole, of Paddington's missing persons' desk, later denied the search had ended.

Wherever he was, Richey Edwards was remembered in Wales. He still is. The band's arrival had made Wales proud. How sad that a proud tale of a national success should also be the story of personal sadness.