Friday, 2 September 2011

Changing Phases

These last few months have been surreal for our family. 
We have spent the better part of 14 years wondering what happened to our son Damien. The brick wall that we have been trying to climb has finally given way in terms of the investigation. It was sudden and unexpected that the case changed from 14 1/2 years of being a missing person case, to a possible criminal case. Although we suspected this might be a possibility, it was still a shock to hear those words: 'possible murder’. We are still waiting on the outcome and every day is a hill to climb until we find the answers we hope will be forthcoming and in our hearts we are keenly aware that there may never be any answers that will give us the final and ultimate peace of “just knowing the truth”.
How do you go from one stage to another? I feel stranded now, treading water in that I cannot fight anymore – the police are listening and taking things to another level.  I've had anger in me since day one, not at Damien, but at the blatant lack of consideration of the police that left our family hanging in a terrible limbo without any direction or support.  The cold, cynical comments and the promises that kept coming and repeated by one senior police officer after another assigned to Damien’s case over the years.  I had anger, and anger helped to channel my actions and to mobilize me to push and take up the search Damien ourselves and whatever publicity came our way to keep Damien’s face and story out there.  I have always felt someone, somewhere may know the answers, but for so long I hit a brick wall.  However, that seems to have taken a new turn, albeit almost 15 years on.   The odd thing is that now I have nowhere to channel my fury….it has dissipated, or perhaps just simmering somewhere waiting to be ignited if need be… and I am left with a new set of circumstances to consider and all the “what ifs” that go with this new phase.  Bottom line is that Damien is still a missing person and until we find out the truth we will never give up on him but I am in new unchartered waters that I cannot predict.
I say phase, as I have found over the years that my strength comes in phases and when it does, this is when we will have a spate of high profile publicity and events for Damien.  It is like riding on a wave and a tide of passion – a crusade.  Suddenly we find a right time and a right place to give it our all in finding answers for Damien.  Afterwards, as with all waves our resolve comes crashing down again and back to earth and stark reality that we still have nothing and still Damien is nowhere closer to being found.  This takes you to another phase that is a self-preservation phase, where you are exhausted emotionally and the overwhelming need is peace and anonymity and solace to recharge and rethink for the next phase.  I sometimes feel that I am turning away from Damien at these times, and I do feel guilty about it –it is as though I have left him somehow, lost and alone.  However, I have to take time to just ‘stop’ and back away, take stock.  It has to be done, but the expense is in my soul which is tortured by guilt for stopping and physically needing rest.  There is no balance…rest is just physical, but emotions never go away or ceases to exist.  It is constant.
I always knew that one day the situation could perhaps change and I know that I am ready to meet the challenges of whatever happens.  One thing I have learned is that there is nothing that I cannot handle now and I will keep going from one phase to the next as they present themselves and I will come out the other side stronger and more determined.   We live in hope we may find peace and yet ready to continue the uphill battle if needed and fight Damien’s corner, because if we don’t….who will??  Watch this space…..

By Valerie Nettles
Mother of missing Damien Nettles


  1. Valerie,

    Your comments about the police I have sadly heard echoed by many others when it comes to the police and their 'support' of teenage/adult missing persons. I think you have it in you from your eloquent and eye opening piece to write an article for a newspaper about your treatment. For your sake and for those who may be in a similar situation in the future.

    Please don't give up hope of a conclusion. There is support out there for you and your family and for Damien. We will all indeed continue to 'watch this space' with much love and all our thoughts in your direction.


  2. My heart goes out to you. I remember when he originally went missing and not understanding how a lad of that age and height could go missing and nobody have seen anything.

    I do hope that there is closure for you in the best possible way and that you find your son.

    God Bless.

  3. The police have a lack of sympathy when it comes to male teenagers or young men who go missing.

  4. Thank you for your comments! I am still hopeing we will get answers one day.


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