A reward of £20,000 is being offered by police for information leading to the location of a teenager missing from the Isle of Wight for 16 years.
Damien Nettles has not been seen since Saturday, November 2, 1996 after the 16-year-old did not return home from a night out in Cowes on the island.
The £20,000 offer of a reward funded by police is the latest line of enquiry for detectives from Hampshire Constabulary’s Major Investigation Team (HMIT).
Senior Investigating Officer Superintendent Dave Powell said:
"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.
“A police funded reward to assist this investigation has been given careful consideration to ensure the timing can maximise opportunities for any new credible information that could lead us to the location of Damien.
“I share the Nettles family’s belief that the key to solve this case is to be found on the Isle of Wight, and that is where we are focusing the announcement of this police reward in the weeks leading up to the 16th anniversary of Damien’s disappearance.
“Police are grateful for the family’s considerable understanding and support throughout this investigation.
Their drive and determination is an absolutely crucial element in maintaining awareness of this case and encouraging what we all hope can be a crucial piece of information that takes us to Damien.
“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.”
Police are appealing for information about Damien’s movements and whereabouts in the Cowes area during the weekend he went missing in November 1996.
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: White, 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.
Damien Nettles' mother Valerie, reacts to the news from her home in Texas, USA