Missing Nettles review - police statement

Damien Nettles Photo: PA

Police investigating the disappearance of Damien Nettles on the Isle of Wight are starting a fresh review of all information available in the case to date.

The decision comes at the end of a six month period during which a £20,000 police reward was on offer for facts leading to the location of the teenager, who was last seen in Cowes on November 2 1996.

Following the announcement of the reward on October 4, 2012, police received 30 reports of information up until this Thursday.

Hampshire Constabulary would like to thank everyone who responded to the reward in good faith with genuine attempts to assist our investigation.

Each of the 30 reports of information has been analysed and assessed in line with police procedures.

None of the information led to new lines of enquiry. However, the case will not be closed.

Senior Investigating Officer Superintendent David Powell said: “I am disappointed that the offer of a £20,000 reward over six months has not led to any new facts or credible leads on the location of Damien Nettles.

“The reward has been publicised extensively since last October, and the police remain grateful to all the people and organisations that have given time and support in encouraging information from the public.

“Regrettably and reluctantly, we’ve had to face the conclusion that the offer of a reward has not taken us any closer to finding out what happened to Damien.

“Therefore, Hampshire Constabulary has taken the difficult decision not to extend the reward.

“Although we always appreciate every single sincere thought and effort to help the police - the information we have received since October has repeated previous unfounded speculation, contained factually inaccurate details - or fallen short of police standards for a reliable source.

“I understand and respect the Nettles family’s views on why the reward should be extended, but after much deliberation and careful consideration, I am not convinced at this time that the extension of a police reward can bring us closer to finding Damien.

“I have contacted Damien’s mother Valerie personally on Friday to inform her of this decision, and explain the reasons.

“I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the courage and tenacity of the Nettles family. We are acutely aware that this difficult decision is a disappointment, but our choice not to extend the reward does not mean the case is being closed.

“Hampshire Constabulary has already dedicated significant time and effort into finding out what happened to Damien Nettles.

  • 1,127 people have been involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.

  • 357 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996.

  • 2,536 documents have been reviewed and processed.

  • Between 2010 and 2012, it was necessary for the Hampshire Major Investigation Team (HMIT) to concentrate on analysing and acting upon the information already passed to police by the local community. This led police 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.

  • Murder or foul play cannot be ruled out.

“I will now be dedicating further time to review all the files and information we have gathered in this case so far.

"It's important in any case of this size to pause for reflection, take stock, assess whether any other potential leads exist, and consider what other reasonable actions the police could take.

"I will be keeping the Nettles family informed about my latest review of the case over the next few weeks before reaching a decision on what will happen next.

"In the meantime, the case files remain open for any new facts that members of the public may have."

The last confirmed sighting of Damien on surviving available CCTV is Damien in Yorkie’s fish and chip shop off Cowes High Street at 11.35pm on Saturday, November 2 1996.

Damien was also positively identified by his family from CCTV of Cowes High Street at 12.02am on Sunday, November 3, 1996.

This footage showed Damien walking to a bus stop and then back along the High Street eating his chips. 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 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk.

Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.