Justice 4 ALL Madeleine McCann Family
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Post by Guest on Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:00 am

Eyes averted and voice lowered to a whisper, Kevin Gosden confesses that in the darkest hours he has found himself envying the parents of murdered children.
It is an extraordinary admission that illustrates the hell in which he and his wife Glenys have lived for the past year. Parents of teenagers fatally shot or stabbed “are lucky because at least they know” their child’s fate. No one knows what happened to Andrew Gosden.
Early tomorrow, three coaches will leave Doncaster, South Yorkshire, for London. On board will be 150 people, each looking for an answer. They are the family, friends and teachers of a boy whose decision to run away from home, 365 days ago tomorrow, continues to baffle all who knew him.
That Friday morning, eight days into a new term, 14-year-old Andrew left home; but he did not catch the school bus, walking instead to a park where he waited until he knew his parents would have left for work.
He then returned home, changed out of his school uniform, leaving his blazer neatly hanging from the back of a chair and placing his shirt and trousers in the washing machine. Then he headed to a cash machine, withdrew £200 from his savings account and made for the railway station where he bought a one-way ticket to London.
Later that day, CCTV cameras at King’s Cross captured three still images of a fresh-faced boy, looking slim and small for his age, as he crossed the concourse and left the station. Since then, silence.
It is estimated that 210,000 people are reported missing every year, 140,000 of them aged under 18. Of these, 100,000 have not reached their 16th birthday. The majority, 75 per cent, return home within two days, and 90 per cent are back within a month. After a year, according to Metropolitan Police figures, 99 per cent of reported runaways have been found. But not Andrew. He has vanished, seemingly without trace.
The scant comfort to which Mr and Mrs Gosden cling has come from periodic sightings – 122 in total – of a boy matching his description. These have been reported from all over Britain, the majority – 45 – from London and 11 from Brighton. Not one has been confirmed.
One year on, pain and bewilderment weigh heavy in the Gosdens’ tidy, terraced Victorian home on the outskirts of Doncaster.
Although the peak age for running away from home is 13 to 15, girls account for more than 70 per cent of such cases. A significant proportion of runaways are in residential or foster care. Less than 7 per cent of children reported missing were living with both their mother and father. Single children are more likely to disappear than those with siblings. Many have experienced conflict with a family member or had problems at school.
And Andrew? He and his elder sister, Charlotte, both academic high-flyers, have grown up in a secure home full of love and laughter.
It was the sort of model household that is supposed to be close to extinction. They ate their evening meal together, discussed problems collectively, laughed at the same comedy shows, played family games, shared hobbies. Mr and Mrs Gosden, both speech therapists, are quietly committed Christians, but their faith imposed no restrictive rigidity of conduct. The children were encouraged to think and act independently.
Andrew, a prize-winning mathematician who seemed destined to cruise to future honours at Oxford or Cambridge, was home-loving, sweet-natured and good-humoured.
He seemed the perfect son, yet – unless he has been killed or is being held against his will – his year-long failure to make contact seems an act of gratuitous cruelty.
When they first talked to The Times, a few weeks after Andrew’s disappearance, the Gosdens were still trying to be positive, hopeful that their agony would soon end.
The past year has shattered them. Mr Gosden, 42, looks a broken man. He tried to commit suicide in December, then spent 15 weeks in acute psychiatric care. He no longer works and has lost three stone in weight.
As Mr Gosden tried to hang himself from a balustrade, their vicar – a friend and the only person outside the family with a key to the house – chose this moment to pay an unannounced call at the house.
Standing outside, he heard the sound of a body falling, let himself in and “basically saved me”. Mr Gosden returned to consciousness in hospital several hours later.
“I had reached a point where I was so despairing, discouraged, frustrated and angry with life that I was not in my right mind at all,” he reflected.
His wife, 44, has somehow carried the burden of a missing son alongside that of a husband who had lost the will to live, while needing to be a rock of stability for their 17-year-old daughter.
Mrs Gosden seemed much more controlled and purposeful when we first met. Now, the tears flow steadily.
“It’s been an amazingly difficult time,” she said quietly. “I felt I was the one really holding the family together while also keeping my job going.
“I was feeling the loss of someone too, but the emotional support which I needed from Kevin had been severed.”
A year on, and still no one can conceive a possible motive behind Andrew’s decision to leave home.
His head teacher at McAuley Catholic High School, Mary Lawrence, will be joining staff and pupils on the trip to London, where his friends plan to split up into small groups to hand out 15,000 leaflets. Mrs Lawrence says the school remains “as mystified about it now as we were when it happened.
“He was a very good and able student, a quiet young man who had his own little group of friends and enjoyed playing computer games. There was no indication that there was anything wrong with him at all. You think there must be something [to explain his disappearance], but what? I don’t know how you live with that as a parent.”
South Yorkshire Police yesterday renewed an appeal for information about Andrew, who would have turned 15 in July. Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Ray has recently taken over the the case and is conducting a review of the investigation. She will meet the Gosdens next week, when they hope to discuss some of their concerns about opportunities that may have been missed during the police inquiry.
Many other agencies have been involved in the search, including Missing People, a charity that works with runaways and their families, which has publicised Andrew in its appeals. It recognises that Andrew’s background and his length of absence from home make him “very unusual”.
Ruth Mulryne, the charity’s director of services, said that Missing People was backing the Gosdens’ London mission, which will conclude with an ecumenical service at 3.30pm tomorrow at St James’s Church, Piccadilly.
“We desperately hope that this service and the publicity that it generates will finally find Andrew and put an end to his family’s suffering,” she said.
When they first arrive in London, Mr and Mrs Gosden will make their way to King’s Cross to lay flowers and leave a personal message at the last place that their son was seen.
After many fruitless weekend trips to tramp the capital’s streets, Mrs Gosden says this will probably be their final visit. “We have made a huge effort and given it our best shot, but with each day that passes it’s going to become harder and harder for people to recognise him. Sunday is probably going to feel as close to closure as we’re ever going to get.”
Andrew’s bedroom awaits his return. On the walls are posters of rock bands. There is a small snooker table, a collection of rocks, a music system, a pile of jigsaws and a small teddy bear.
Shelves groan with books. The boy who was reading Nietzsche at the time of his disappearance was also a big fan of Harry Potter.
His parents’ envy for those mourning dead offspring focuses solely on the fact that such tragedies bring an end to not knowing. With every fibre of their being, they hope that Andrew is alive. Yet the uncertainty is a daily agony. It is almost unbearable to imagine that their son has not only abandoned them of his own volition but has chosen to leave them blind to his fate. Those are not the actions of the boy they thought they knew.
As with the parents of Madeleine McCann, the Gosdens are leading a life suspended. Unlike the McCanns, they have not done so in a blaze of global publicity and suspicion. Mr Gosden said that he and his wife felt “deeply, deeply sorry” for Gerry and Kate McCann and suspected that the two families “have an awful lot in common”, in all but one respect.
“You get a lot of press if your child is little, blonde and female, but it hurts just as much when you’re missing a teenage son.”
Anyone with information about Andrew Gosden or any other missing person can contact Missing People’s 24-hour, confidential Freephone service on 0500 700700.



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