Special day for missing Luke

NICKI Durbin and a small army of helpers held an event to mark 'a year and a day' since her son Luke went missing. The aims were to keep his image in the public eye and raise cash for the National Missing Persons Helpline.

By Tracey Sparling

NICKI Durbin and a small army of helpers held an event to mark 'a year and a day' since her son Luke went missing. The aims were to keep his image in the public eye and raise cash for the National Missing Persons Helpline. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on how the milestone revealed huge public support.

LUKE the tired teenager, asleep with his beloved guitar clasped to his chest…

Luke the adventurer, on his first holiday abroad with friends, in Barcelona…

Luke laughing with his 'Gramps,' the only man he was happy to have his picture taken with. ..

As family snapshots of Luke Durbin flashed on to a big screen in The Riverside theatre in Woodbridge, his younger sister Alicia had penned “Mum I'm going to be a rock star,” on a caption, remembering her big brother who loved his music.

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Their devastated mum Nicki stood in the shadows at the back, unable to stem the tears on this momentous day for the Suffolk family left with a gaping hole.

Coldplay's Fix You, with the lyric 'Lights will guide you home' filled the auditorium, as hundreds of people watched photographs - which the Durbin family had never dreamed would be needed in public for such a cause.

Then it was straight into upbeat music by local band Small Town Bullies, which got the audience cheering approval - plus a comedy play to entertain the crowds and music from Strip Jack Naked.

The event was also backed by celebrities including Richard E Grant, Griff Rhys Jones, Roy Hudd, cricketer Bob Willis and singer Nate James.

Nicki, 38 from Hollesley said: “It's really amazing how many people have come.

“It's incredible to see Luke's friends, my daughter Alicia's friends and our family, plus people we don't even know, all together.”

The afternoon was hosted by broadcaster John McCarthy, who became a household name on account of his years being held hostage in Lebanon. He said: “I disappeared for five years, and I had no idea what my family and friends were going through back home. I imagine Nicki Durbin is feeling something similar to what they went through. Nobody knows what's happened to Luke and today the important thing is to keep his image in the public eye.

“I was very proud when Nicki asked me to host this gathering. She is an inspiration to me and everybody here - so strong and so determined on a day which holds such an emotional charge for her.”

Two hundred people bought tickets in advance, and many more turned up on the day, raising between £3,000 and £4,000 for the National Missing Persons Helpline (NMPH). An auction also raised £1,100.

The Riverside theatre gave the venue and event the programme was sponsored by supporters. The army of organisers included Pat Pipe, Christine Leggett, Sophie Green, James Tomlinson, Sally Stewart, Victoria Shelley and Andy Collins.

Among the attenders were the parents of Craig Etheridge, another missing young man, who had travelled from their home in Middlesborough after being a source of support for Nicki through the NMPH.

Mal and Jan Gregory from Woodbridge were among the crowds. Their son James died at the age of 16 from brain tumour and Mal said: “Luke came and supported James' celebration and the whole family helped us, so we wanted to be here today to show our support.”

John Collins from Tennyson Close, Woodbridge said: “You see little Madeleine on TV, and realise that Nicki and Alicia have been going through that nightmare for a year and a day.”

His wife Sue added: “It's great to see so many people here to support them.”

As the crowds filed in to the theatre to watch the play, two lone figures remained by the door; Nicki stood with Luke's friend Alex Farrow, who was one of the last people to see Luke during that night out in Ipswich last May.

Both clutched a warming cup of coffee to ward off the chill of the wet afternoon, united - with many others - in their fervent wish that Luke comes home soon.

Weblink: www.findluke.com

www.missingpersons.org

Acting detective inspector Ian Addison who leads the investigation into Luke's disappearance, urges you to ring immediately if you see Luke.

Mr Addison was stationed in Woodbridge when Luke was first reported missing, and took over the case seven days later. He said: “It is very rare to find a case with so little to go on.

“We have had a lot of calls from the public which are very much appreciated. People sometimes ring us as an afterthought, and by that time if it was Luke who they saw, he could be anywhere again. I would urge people to call us immediately, if they think they see him.

“Our team members have also been using their imagination to think what could have happened to Luke. We have been investigating those theories and trying to maximise the number of witnesses, along with media appeals and forensic techniques. There is no evidence of foul play, but equally there's no evidence to suggest that isn't what happened.”

He said all options had to remain open.

Last week there was another reported sighting of Luke, in Taunton, Somerset and Suffolk Police are waiting to see the CCTV. Nicki fears it may be the same man she saw on CCTV from Devon months ago, who looked very similar but turned out not to be Luke.

N

If you see Luke, call Suffolk Police on 01473 613500.

Age 20

Went missing: May 12, 2006.

Last seen: Heading towards the Cattlemarket bus station.

Description: Luke is white, 5ft 10ins, of slim build, with short mousy-coloured wavy hair and blue eyes.

When he disappeared he was wearing a black or grey long-sleeved collared shirt, blue jeans and brown suede shoes.

Age: 4

Went missing: 10pm May 3, 2007.

Last seen: 9.30pm that night, in bed at a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

Description: Was wearing pink short-sleeved top with a picture of a sleeping blue 'Eeyore' donkey. The trousers are white and speckled .

Reward: £2.5m from Sir Richard Branson, Sir Philip Green and others.

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