The morning of Saturday 10 September 1988 was a warm and sunny one. My fifteen year old son Lee left the house with his friend to walk the mile from our home in Cheam, Greater London to the nearby High Street in Sutton. Together, they spent a few hours window-shopping in the busy High Street, until they parted ways. Lee had wanted to go to Crystal Palace football match in the afternoon at Selhurst Park, but he would not have ventured to the match alone and we know now that he never went.
He also never returned home. Over the next days, the truth that he was not coming home began to dawn. My dear beloved son was missing. Lee would not have run away, would not be lost in an area he knew so well, he was not just staying out late. But Lee was missing.
Since that day, twenty six long years have passed. Lee is still missing.
At the time Lee went missing, there existed no organisation to provide counselling, support or guidance for families who were going through the turmoil of having a loved one missing. It wasn't until five years later, in 1993, that the National Missing Persons Helpline was founded in response to the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh. The helpline went on to become the charity Missing People in 2007. Missing People is the only charity in the UK dedicated to reuniting missing loved ones with their families and to supporting those families left in limbo, desperately waiting for news of their loved one.
The Missing People team is a lifeline for me and my family and countless others, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, at the end of a phone, text or email. The charity is committed to searching for our missing loved ones and providing vital support to families. The caring team has helped support us since the very beginnings of the charity. They have generated numerous appeals for information about Lee's disappearance, through a network of media partners, poster partners and more recently though a huge online community.
Two years ago, I mentioned to one of the team at Missing People that I dreamt I had performed a song about my missing son to an audience. In the dream, the song was titled 'Where is Lee?'. From this spark, the team at the charity invited me to compose and sing my song at the annual Missing People Carol Service at St Martin in the Fields, London, hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald. I didn't know how to write a song, and I couldn't sing, but with encouragement from the team and with generous tuition and help from music producer James Hawkins, I managed to perform my song at the Carol Service.
Seeing how cathartic this process had been for me, the charity decided they wanted to give more families a chance to get involved. In 2014, the charity formed the Missing People Choir, inspired by their partnership with Rock Choir. James worked with composer Simon Rhodes to write a song around some lyrics I wrote for Lee, called 'I Miss You'. The song helps me to express my emotions and each time I sing it I feel as if I am reaching out to my son Lee.
The Missing People choir is a unique source of support to me. It is a very powerful experience to lift up my voice alongside others who I know identify with every word we sing. One year on from the Missing People Carol Service where I first sang Lee's song, the choir came together at the same place and performed 'I Miss You'. Recently we were invited to perform the song again, to record a video. We gathered on a grey day on the rooftop of the News UK building in London. I can't think of a better way to illustrate the helplessness of searching for a missing loved one than singing out over the rooftops of London, nor a better way to illustrate the strength and hope that Missing People offer many families living in limbo.
In my dreams, I see your face,
Walk with you, hold you safe.
Close my eyes, I think of you,
Until the day I see you again.
I never thought, I'd be without you,
I'd always thought, you'd be here safe with me.
I'm so empty and silent without you.
Where are you now?
Are you safe and well?
May be tomorrow I'll wake up to find you.
I miss you
You can download the Missing People Choir's single "I Miss You" through the charity's website. The charity Missing People is supported by players of the People's Postcode Lottery.