Seven days have now passed since teenage university student Thomas Jones was last seen.
The 18-year-old went missing after a night out during Fresher’s Week at Worcester University, just three days after moving to the city from his hometown of Bromsgrove.
Thomas had been at Velvet nightclub in the city centre and popped into McDonalds at around 3am, calling his flatmates 45 minutes later to say he was “two minutes away” from their shared university halls of residence.
The last confirmed sighting of him, which came via Snapchat, was close to the River Severn, where he is thought to have crossed the Sabrina footbridge before walking onto the footpath along the top of the flood defences on Hylton Road, towards Hallow Road, just before 3.50am.
The mystery took a dark turn four days later, when West Mercia Police announced they had arrested two men on suspicion of murder as they investigated Thomas’s disappearance.
A body hasn’t been located during the probe and on Monday, the two arrested men who are both in their 20s, were released and are no longer being treated as suspects.
Thomas’s mother Vicki, 53, and father Ian, 50, have now come forward to reveal they both spoke to their son on the evening he went missing and that he informed them he was “safe”.
The couple raised the alarm the following day after struggling to get hold of Thomas, who was due to start his studies in Primary Education this week, and are adamant that he is still alive.
Mrs Jones said: “We’re going out of our minds. We are caught between trying to keep a sense of normality and the reality. It’s very difficult.
“We have to keep retracing his steps and ask people to dig deep in their memory banks. Anything, however small, might be the piece of the jigsaw that helps us.
“Someone might just have that little snippet of information. Please check any selfies that you may have taken. All the kids do that these days, don’t they? Is Tom in the background? We haven’t heard from anyone out that night.”
Thomas’s father added: “We want to hear from anyone around the Sabrina Bridge, cars going past, a bus. He might have been talking to someone. We are looking for that hour between 3.30am and 4.30am.
“He last called some friends at 3.48am and said he was two minutes away although that could have been a figure of speech.
“After that we have a gap. We are going to go and see a few houses [along Hylton Road and Hallow Road] to see if anyone has any information at all.
“There’s lots of long gardens along there, we’re asking people to check in them. Since [the two men were released], we’re back to square one.
“They’ve identified the two lads. The police are happy with what they’ve said. Both stories match up.”
“It’s the unknown. Has anybody done him any harm? Has he been abducted?,” Mr Jones said.
He told the BBC one woman had seen the missing persons posters for their son and been in touch to say she had seen him at around 2.30pm on Wednesday.
He added: “She said he looked dazed and was asking for the city centre.”
Thomas’s friend Harley Hetherington has revealed the Snapchat he sent before vanishing was a photo of him standing by railings next to the river near Worcester Racecourse at 3.41am.
He said: “The last call he made that I am aware of was to his flatmate at 3.45am to say he was almost home.
“He had earlier phoned his mum to say he was home safe when he obviously wasn’t.”
Thomas’s uncle Chris Rogers said: “We had a house full yesterday and there were plenty of tears, there were buckets of tears.
“Tom is a gentle boy, he’s one of the loveliest boys you can ever wish to meet.
“We covered every blade of grass in Worcester between us and hopefully we’ve uncovered a lot of leads that the police can follow up on.
“It’s our job as a family to redouble our efforts and we’re intent to do that.”
Specialist dive teams have been searching the River Severn where Thomas was last seen. Members of the public have been asked to stay away from the area where trained divers and officers are conducting a “full and thorough search”.
Detective Inspector James Bayliss said: “The investigation into the disappearance of Thomas remains a priority and we are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding Thomas’s disappearance.
“This remains a missing person inquiry.”
A University of Worcester spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned for the whereabouts of one of our students and would urge the public and fellow students to contact police if they have any information.
“The university’s security staff have been assisting the police in their search. We are in contact with the family and offering support to fellow students.”