If you have any information please call Hampshire Police on 101 quoting 'Operation Ridgewood'

Damien’s Law

After over 20yrs of campaigning for Damien, Mrs Nettles felt compelled to do something that was going to be helpful to the missing issue in general.

Valerie Nettles wants a lasting legacy to Damien in the most meaningful way. Damien’s Law calls for new guidance to ensure more missing people are found. Future investigations need to provide cohesive case management with much needed specialised risk assessment training. Too many young males fall into the assumption that they are off on a jolly and it is a particular concern. The first 48 hours are the most important. Any CCTV needs to be bagged and tagged and kept safe. Reporting should be as soon as a person is suspected as missing. If Damien’s Law is passed it will be a legacy to her son. His case could have been better handled in the very initial period and had this happened, she may not be still looking for answers.

In summary, the manifesto asks for the following:

  • Under 18’s assessed for Child Rescue Alert
  • Risks associated with being missing on a night out acknowledged
  • Concerns of families taken more seriously
  • Specialist risk assessment training for police officer
  • Search teams deployed as soon as possible for medium/high risks
  • Greater transparency how Police allocate resources

Introduce new guidance to ensure that more missing people are found

Damien was 16yrs old when he went missing in Cowes, Isle of Wight on 2 November 1996. A missing person report was filed the following afternoon. Unfortunately, the police recorded his age incorrectly as 19yrs old, assessed him as low risk and his disappearance was therefore not taken seriously for several weeks. Throughout this time I attempted to explain that Damien’s absence was out of character and that he would not wilfully be out of contact. However, I was portrayed as a ‘hysterical woman’ by officers because I was begging for assistance to find my son.

In the first few weeks after Damien went missing requests by the family for search teams, a helicopter and deployment of search dogs were all refused. In hindsight, if these actions had been taken, there would have been more chance to gather crucial evidence in the early days. Instead I am here 21 years later still looking for answers, with no explanation of what happened to my son. There are now no clear lines of enquiry due to the lack of evidence gathered in the critical days and weeks following Damien’s disappearance. A review in 2007 it was determined Damien was likely murdered, but without definite answers we remain in limbo as a family. I am unable to declare Damien dead and no further forward to knowing what happened to my son.

My situation is not unique. I am a Family Representative for Missing People since Damien went missing and retains a close unity with parents of other long-term missing children. The Missing People charity is all we have and the job is massive and the funds are short for one organisation to be able to sustain the needs of the magnitude of the issue.

Research by the charity Missing People suggests that, although few people who are missing will be found to have died, the risks are very real and those missing after a night out, in particular young males, are at particular risk, and a risk which increases the longer that they are missing. When someone is reported missing after a night out, it should be understood as an additional risk factor, and if combined with family assertions that the disappearance is out of character, the police should respond quickly and appropriately.

I, hereby, petition the Prime Minister Rt Hon Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to acknowledge the distress and anguish suffered by families when the disappearance of a loved one is not properly responded to resulting in a long and painful wait. I also ask that the following recommendations are adopted:

  1. All cases involving those under 18 years of age should be assessed in accordance with the guidelines set out for the activation of Child Rescue Alert and an alert should be issued in appropriate circumstances. (Currently, responses vary across police forces.)

  2. The risks associated with missing after a night out should be acknowledged by the police and other professionals. The response to people missing in this situation should be reviewed. If a missing person is deemed medium or high risk, specialist search teams and equipment should be used in the early stages of the police investigation to secure evidence and increase the probability of finding the missing person alive.

  3. Consider funding for an independent Centre of Excellence to unite professionals in assessment, specialist training, searches, investigation, family support, forensics, and horizon scanning for new developments – with a dedicated unit for long-term missing cases. This would ensure that all ‘missing cases’ get equal attention and adequate/fair funding.

I call upon you to support this petition to implement these recommendations and acknowledge the suffering that my family has endured throughout the 20 years of waiting for news of Damien. To prevent other families having to endure the same heartbreak it is vital that families are listened to, that effective risk assessments are made, and appropriate steps are taken in the search to find the missing person alive.

While my wish to find Damien’s remains, have convictions secured and justice delivered may not be realised, if these recommendations are considered I hope it will help other families who find themselves in the same unfortunate situation.

Damien Nettles Website: http://www.damiennettles.uk

Damien’s Missing People Appeal: http://www.missingpeople.org.uk/help-us-find/damien-nettles-96-001159

Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/damienslaw

Twitter: Damien's Law @DamiensLawUK1 #DamiensLaw

Sign the petition

Petition Update

We have recently published an update to the petition encouraging our supporters to write to their own local MP to raise more awareness.

Write to your MP

We have received a response from the Home Office Safeguarding Unit, wishing us good luck with our campaign. They have assured us that improving missing persons guidelines is of utmost importance to them.

Missing People charity are now supporting Damien’s Law through their media team. In recent weeks, we have also gained support from professional criminologists, forensic psychologists and TV personalities.

We are delighted to also have Charlie Hedges MBE onboard, who is acknowledged as one of the UK’s acclaimed experts on missing persons, particularly children and those who are abducted and trafficked. We fully support his vision of a Centre of Expertise to be applied to practice, that will be a focal point for long term missing with delivery of specialised training.

If you feel strongly that our manifesto would make an improvement, please feel free to write to your own MP.

Write to your MP

Thank you again for your support, it means a lot.

Kind regards


Suggested template for your letter:

I am one of over 3,000 people who have signed the petition on change.org for Damien’s Law.

The campaign has been established by Valerie Nettles, whose 16yr old son Damien went missing in Cowes, Isle of Wight 21yrs ago. He is presumed murdered, but his body has never been found. Hampshire Constabulary has mishandled the case from the start with a catalogue of over 30 issues raised in a complaint to PSD last year. IPCC referred the complaint back to Hampshire Constabulary for Local Investigation. As their conclusion was unsatisfactory, an appeal is currently being processed by the IPCC.

[insert your own paragraph here if you wish to elaborate why you signed this petition]

Mrs Nettles friend/supporter has had a response from Home Office Safeguarding Unit and her local MP, Michelle Donelan for Chippenham. She also has the support of Missing People charity, Charlie Hedges MBE and many highly acclaimed professionals.

I would be grateful if you can raise my concerns and keep me updated please. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience.

Our supporters

Charlie Hedges MBE

We fully support Charlie Hedges MBE ambition of a Centre of Expertise to be realised.

We are delighted to have the support of Charlie Hedges MBE, one of the UK’s acclaimed experts on missing persons, particularly children and those who are abducted and trafficked. Please visit Charlie’s website for full details of his dedicated work to missing persons.

Missing People

The Missing People charity is the only registered UK charity for missing persons. They run a 24/7 helpline with dedicated staff

Professor David Wilson

Emeritus Professor of Criminology Birmingham City University; Chair Friends of Grendon; Vice President New Bridge. Author and TV presenter

Professor Elizabeth Yardley

Professor of Criminoloogy. Creator & host of CrimeBitesPod. Expertise in homicide, networked media in homicide & websleuthing

David Swindle

Multilingual Crime Consultant, Independent Reviewer, Expert Criminal Investigator and TV Presenter

Kerry Daynes

Consultant & Forensic Psychologist, Speaker, Author, TV & Media Export; The Profiler on Faking It

Saturday Share

We run a Saturday Share project to raise awareness of long-term missing people who may not necessarily have a suitable platform for their missing loved one. We do a short write-up, appeal banner & photo collages and share media and video links throughout the 24hr period. We liaise closely with the family to ensure they are happy with what will be published. This is providing a huge success and in one case a possible breakthrough has been made.

If you have a missing family member and would like us to feature them, please visit Damien’s Law Facebook Group and message an Admin to arrange a slot. We are happy to fit you in to coincide with birthdays or anniversaries as near to the date of your choice #DamiensLaw.

Damien’s Law Facebook Group Newsfeed

Follow us on Twitter @DamiensLawUK1 to retweet our regular appeals for missing children and young adults.

Helen’s Law

We are proud to support Marie McCourt with her campaign to introduce Helen’s Law

Marie McCourt’s daughter, 22yr old Helen was murdered on 9 February 1998 in Billinge, Lancashire. Ian Simms is serving a life sentence for her murder based on overwhelming forensic evidence. However, he refuses to reveal the location of Helen’s body despite it being almost 30years ago. He is denying her family the chance to grant her a dignified burial and have a permanent resting place for Helen.

The case made legal history, being only the third ever UK murder trial without a body. Marie’s campaign asks for denial of parole and release from prison if the murderer has not declared where the body of their victim can be found. Unlike Damien's case which has had no support from any Isle of Wight MP, Marie is very lucky to have the unfailing support from her MP Conor McGinn. He said “I want to see immediate progress on this and I will be keeping the pressure on the Government so that victims and their families get the justice they deserve”.

Sign the petition

Helen’s case features in an episode of Town & Country Murder - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvyNMIwN_HM

Other families supporting Helen’s Law are Samantha Billingham, Carole Packham’s daughter and Linda Jones, mother of Danielle Jones

Samantha’s father, Russell Causley is serving a life sentence for her mother, Carole Packham’s murder over 30yrs ago. This case was featured on The Investigator in 2016 on ITV http://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep1week28/investigator-british-crime-story.

Linda Jones, mother of Danielle Jones recently featured on Loose Women to speak about her daughter’s murder and her support for Helen’s Law http://www.essexlive.news/danielle-jones-mother-linda-tells-loose-women-she-won-t-stop-searching-for-murdered-daughter-s-body/story-30425349-detail/story.html. Danielle was brutally murdered by her uncle, Stuart Campbell in 2001. Like other narcissists, he too refuses to reveal where he buried Danielle.

Watch & share documentary for Helen’s Law - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPsMQTNQFLo

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP)

CEOP works to keep children safe from sexual abuse and sexual grooming online