What happened to Luke Durbin? Mum's renewed appeal 15 years after teenager vanished in Ipswich

Luke Durbin.

Luke Durbin went missing on May 12, 2006. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Fifteen years ago today, a Suffolk teenager disappeared without trace after a night out with friends.

Luke Durbin's mother, Nicki, has never given up searching for her son and remains convinced someone local knew what happened to the 19-year-old in the early hours of May 12, 2006. 

Nicki Durbin, mother of Luke Durbin who vanished 15 years ago after a night out in Ipswich. Picture

Nicki Durbin, mother of Luke Durbin who vanished 15 years ago after a night out in Ipswich - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"I hope, with everything I have, that they can find the courage to come forward – and that's all I can keep doing for Luke," she said.

About Luke

Luke attended Farlingaye High School, in Woodbridge, before enrolling on a music technology course at Colchester Institute, but he left after a year because of the lengthy commute from home in Hollesley.

Luke Durbin

At the time of his disappearance, Luke was described as white, 5ft 10in, of slim build, with short dark brown hair and blue eyes - Credit: Supplied by Luke's family

Nicki said Luke had everything going for him – he was handsome, funny, clever and popular, but had lost his way, and according to detectives assigned to the case in 2010, had become involved with drugs and may have been in debt to dealers at the time of his disappearance.

But it felt like Luke had turned a corner and found renewed purpose after starting to work at a greengrocers in Aldeburgh.

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Luke's last known movements

After work, on Thursday, May 11, Luke travelled to the home of his friend Alex, in Woodbridge. 
Leaving his motorbike and a backpack, containing personal belongings including his mobile phone, Luke went out with Alex and another friend, Zac.

Luke Durbin, of Hollesley, who has been missing for seven years.

When Luke vanished, he was wearing a black/grey long-sleeved collared shirt and a purple and grey White Stuff sweatshirt, tatty-looking, faded denim jeans with a motif on the side thigh area, and grey chocolate brown suede moccasin-style shoes - Credit: Supplied by Luke's family

Later, Alex went home early and Zac lost contact with Luke after returning from the bar at Zest nightclub, in Ipswich.

The next sighting of Luke was between 2.30am and 3am on May 12, at Ipswich railway station.

He then walked across town to Hawk Express taxi rank, but had no money for a cab and declined the offer of a mobile phone to call home.

CCTV still from Hawk Express taxi rank (Friday 12 May 2006) of Luke Durbin
EADT 21.10.11

CCTV still from Hawk Express taxi rank - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

The last confirmed sighting of Luke was on CCTV, at about 4am, crossing the road in Dog's Head Street towards the bus station.

CCTV still from outside the bus station in Ipswich (Friday 12 May 2006) of Luke Durbin

CCTV still from Dog's Head Street - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

What happened?

Luke was reported missing the following day.  

Despite media appeals, poster campaigns, a group walk to retrace Luke's steps, and numerous television appearances, including on Crimewatch in 2013, the mystery remained unsolved.

Luke Durbin's mum Nicki with family members and friends

Luke Durbin's mum Nicki with family members and friends leading the walk retracing her son's last known route before he went missing - Credit: John Kerr 

Still plagued by the need to seek out her son, or any clue of what happened, Nicki said: "Not that long ago, I was in Ipswich, just walking through town. I just glanced to the side and could see someone with a hoodie, sitting on the ground, and I had to go back to just check."

A potentially vital clue

Minutes after the last known footage of Luke, a Volvo 440, registration M206 LYE, was caught on CCTV in nearby Orwell Place.

CCTV of the white Volvo detectives want to find in Luke Durbin inquiry

A CCTV image of the white or silver Volvo 440 seen in the area of Luke Durbin's disappearance - Credit: Archant

The owner has never been identified – and the vehicle was registered under a false name and address. 

Possible sightings

Two independent witnesses reported seeing Luke on the May 12, between 11am and 2pm, in a dark blue Renault Megane driven by a black man near the entrance to the Turban Centre car park in Woodbridge.

Luke Durbin with mum Nicki and sister Alicia in 1999

Luke Durbin with mum Nicki and sister Alicia in 1999 - Credit: Supplied by Luke's family

In March the following year, Nicki travelled to London following a possible sighting of Luke by a former classmate outside the Aldwych Theatre in Drury Lane.

The years after Luke disappeared

In November 2010, now retired detective John Brocklebank took over the investigation and was described by Nicki as "relentless" in his approach.

Nicki Durbin and John Brocklebank pictured in 2013

Nicki Durbin and John Brocklebank pictured in 2013 - Credit: Archant

In August 2011, police arrested a 29-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman on suspicion of fraud, in Brixton, after discovering Luke's details had been used to apply for credit in 2007.

The pair were questioned but later released without further action.

Hawk Express in Old Foundry Road, Ipswich, was one of the last places Luke Durbin was seen before he

Hawk Express in Old Foundry Road, Ipswich, was one of the last places Luke Durbin was seen before he disappeared 15 years ago - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

In 2012, police arrested a 41-year-old man on suspicion of murder and a 26-year-old man for being concerned in Luke's murder.

Properties in Ipswich and Rendlesham were sealed off and searched, but both men were eventually released without charge.

Nicki Durbin with Kate McCann and Sarah Godwin

Nicki Durbin with Kate McCann and Sarah Godwin, whose son vanished in 1992, arriving  at a parliamentary inquiry into missing persons at the House of Commons - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

In 2014, a bone discovered in woodland near Parklands, in Ufford, later turned out to have belonged to an animal.

In September 2015, a reward of up to £20,000, valid for three months, was offered for information leading to the conviction of whoever was responsible for Luke's suspected murder.

Dogs Head Street in Ipswich, was one of the last places Luke Durbin was seen before he disappeared 1

Dog's Head Street was the last location in which Luke was picked up on CCTV - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

In 2018, Nicki used her personal experience to support others by working on the Missing People charity's crisis helpline.

She said the assistance offered from across the community over the years had been invaluable, adding: "I would really like to thank everyone for all the support my family has had over the years, because it's made it an awful lot easier."

Nicki Durbin, mother of Luke Durbin who vanished 15 years ago after a night out in Ipswich. Picture

Nicki Durbin began working on the Missing People helpline in 2018 - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Last April, a Channel 5 series Missing or Murdered suggested Luke may have come to harm over a drug debt.

Nicki was initially apprehensive about information she found difficult to confront being made public, adding: "I couldn't believe my son was becoming so involved in such a dark world.

"Whether that has been the demise of Luke, because of that connection, we still don't know."

Luke Durbin as a boy

Luke Durbin as a boy - Credit: Supplied by Luke's family

Suffolk police statement 

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Brown said: “Suffolk Constabulary will continue to fully investigate any new information or evidence that may assist in the discovery of Luke’s whereabouts or that links any person to his disappearance.

“There may be those in the community who still hold vital information that would enable police to provide answers to Luke’s family. It is never too late to come forward and I would urge anyone with information to contact Suffolk police."

Luke Durbin went missing 15 years ago after a night out at what was formerly known as Zest. Picture

Luke went missing after a night out at the former Zest nightclub - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Anyone who has information regarding Luke’s disappearance is asked to visit the major investigation team's online portal here or to call Suffolk police directly on 01473 613513.

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers, anonymously if required, on 0800 555111, quoting Operation Barley.

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