The Hunt for Richey Edwards - Missing Manic Street Preacher

by JoHarrington

Theories abound about what happened to Manic Street Preachers' missing lyricist and guitarist Richey James. But in truth nobody knows.

An incomplete picture fits together like a jigsaw with holes. You can see the overall shape of Richey Manic's last known days, but not its actual substance.

Since February 1995, there have been sightings in various countries for one of the world's most famous missing persons. But none of them confirmed, nor was the individual seen even approached.

What happened to the Manic Street Preachers' disappeared band-member has never been adequately resolved. He's been officially declared dead (but only sixteen years later in 2008), yet his family, friends and fans still half look for him on the horizon.

This Wizzley article outlines what we do know in the hunt for the missing Richey Edwards.

The Day Richey Edwards Disappeared

He'd been due to fly out to the USA, but Richey Manic really didn't want to go. Nobody realized until it was too late just how much he didn't wish to travel.

In the days before he left, Richey Edwards seemed almost serene. The burning intensity had lessened into a vaguely happy glow.

He sounded positively upbeat in his last interview, with Midori Tsukagoshi from the Japanese magazine Music Life, conducted just a week prior.

No-one could have foreseen what was about to happen next. Though psychiatrists have since lined up to say that the calm always comes directly before the storm.

It turned out that he'd also been withdrawing money from his bank account - £200 every single day for a fortnight. It's the maximum that a cash point will pay out. It meant that Richey vanished with a potential £2800 in his pocket.

He spent the night of January 31st - February 1st 1995 in room 516, at the Embassy Hotel, Bayswater Road, London. Whether he slept or not, we don't know, but his bed was unmade.

He checked out at 7am, leaving behind him his fully packed suitcase, a bottle of Prozac and toiletries. There was also a gift carefully placed in the middle of his sheets.

Book about Richey Manic's Disappearance

It was a pile of books, wrapped with pristine perfection. The paper was decorated by hand. He'd covered it in collage pictures festooned with quotations.

It meant nothing much on its own. That was just the sort of thing that Richey Edwards did.

The present was labelled for 'Jo'. She was his unrequited love, whom he'd never quite managed to muster up the courage to tell how he felt about her. He did now. The message propped up against the gift read simply, 'I love you.'

The nineteen year old Jo eventually did get her books, but only after Manic's manager Martin Hall had unwrapped them to check that no clues to Richey's whereabouts were hidden inside. She had no idea that Richey felt that way about her. She'd thought their relationship was purely platonic.

He also left an unwrapped book in his hotel room. It was Novel with Cocaine by M Ageyev, a Russian novelist, who'd himself pulled off the perfect disappearance in 1934, at the height of his literary success.

However, scholars have debated whether M was simply the pseudonym of Vladimir Nabokov or Mark Levi. While a 1998 translator speculated that M Ageyev was his real name and that he was killed in one of Stalin's gulags.

Novel with Cocaine is set against the backdrop of the 1917 Russian Revolution. It's about Vadim, a man who loses himself to sensuality and despair, lining his life with his beloved white powder. He watched the Revolution playing out around him, but can't join in.

'Our souls work like swings: the stronger the push towards the nobility of the soul, the stronger the swoop down towards the fury of the beast.'

One final clue left in the hotel room was a photograph of a house. It's never been made public and no-one connected with Richey recognizes it. Police and private detectives alike have tried to track it down, but to no avail.

Richey drove away from the hotel in his silver Vauxhall Cavalier. He took the M4 back towards Wales, merging with the M48 in order to cross the old Severn Bridge (then the only one). He arrived at his home in Anson Court, Cardiff, where he left his passport standing upright in the middle of the table. His toll receipt from the bridge was right there with it, along with his credit cards and 30p in coins.

Then he left again.

Was the 30p just the change from the bridge toll? Or another of Richey's Nietzschean references? After all, he was always dropping those. 'When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home, and went into the mountains...'

The rest merely seemed to be underscoring the point that he'd left behind those things which log an identity into the system. He had around £2800 in his pocket, but no more, and he wasn't overtly leaving the country.

Richey was possessed of a keen intelligence and a love of referencing his great literary idols. These are the sort of cryptic clues which have driven investigators half insane during the past twenty years. They could be meaningless, or they could hold the key to everything.

Meanwhile, back in London, James Dean Bradfield and band manager Martin Hall were calling people trying to locate Richey. No-one had seen him. James left for America, while Martin stayed to make more calls.

Richey's father, Graham Edwards, drove into Cardiff from Blackwood. He gained access to Richey's flat, finding the passport and other items left there. There's no telling by how many minutes or hours he missed his son.

Influences Upon Richey Manic Before his Disappearance

In truth, Richey consumed books like the rest of us breathe. I could have added thirty that he'd read in the weeks previously. I went for the biggies.

The 16 Days After Richey Edwards Vanished

Whatever happened to Richey, it didn't happen immediately. There are at least fourteen days when he had to have been in South Wales.

It was manager Martin Hall who filed the first missing person's report, on February 2nd 1995, with Harrow Road police station. He wasn't taken too seriously, after all Richey was an adult. He could leave any hotel that he wanted.

An advert ran in a South Welsh local newspaper from February 3rd through to the 5th. It read, 'Richard, please make contact. Love Mum, Dad and Rachel.'  If he saw it, he didn't respond.

Also on February 3rd 1995, Martin Hall hired a private investigator to check out hotels, ports, airports and hospitals. The detective drew a blank. However, Hall did uncover the fact that Richey had been taking money out of his bank for the past fortnight. The bank manager told him that much.

When Richey's car was found, this was the only tape left in it.

On February 5th came a possible sighting, which has since been blown out of all proportion. This involved David Cross, a 21 year old student from Rhigos, Aberdare. He was in Newport, when he saw a man who he thought might be Richey.

It's important to note two things: David himself was not a fan of the Manics, but his friend Lori Fiddler was, hence his exposure to the band; and Richey's disappearance had not yet been made public.

David reported later that he saw someone who looked a lot like Richey, standing next to a silver-grey colored car, alongside Newport Bus Station. It was reported by the press that David approached him and said, "Hi Richey, I'm a friend of Lori's."  Richey responded, "How is she? How is she doing?"  "She's fine," David answered and Richey surveyed him before saying, "I'll see you later."

However, Lori Fiddler has since gone on record stating how ludicrous the reporting of this became. She didn't know Richey beyond that of a fan saying hello at a few public events. Moreover, she didn't even think that the man described by David was Richey.

Nevertheless, the episode spawned dozens of theories whereby it was Lori who sheltered Richey, despite her living in New York City.

In addition, another fan later reported seeing Richey at the Newport post office, at the counter where temporary passports are issued.  She didn't speak with him.

On February 7th 1995, a taxi driver also from Newport picked up a man looking remarkably like Richey from the King's Hotel in the town. Anthony Hatherhall wasn't a Manics' fans, hence he didn't make the connection at the time. He saw the news reports much later and realized then.

The journey became a silent sight-seeing tour of the Welsh valleys, including Blackwood, where Richey was raised and his family still lived. Eventually Mr Hatherhall dropped off his passenger at the Aust motorway service station, alongside the Severn Bridge. He charged £68 fare and the man paid up without a quibble.

Severn Bridge into Wales from Aust in England

There are no more clues at all until February 14th, when a security officer at the same Severn Service Station (Aust) noted that a silver Cavalier had been parked up for several hours. He didn't investigate. After all, the point of a service station is to park up and rest. But only for two hours. The security officer slapped a parking ticket on it and walked away.

Richey's family, along with South Wales police, went public on February 15th 1995 about Richey's disappearance. Graham Edwards was interviewed on Red Dragon Radio appealing for his son to contact him. Again there was no response.

With rumors now fully rife, the Manic Street Preachers and their management issued a statement about the situation on February 17th.

This was the day that the service station administration in Aust were finally prompted to report the silver Cavalier in their car-park as abandoned. It was confirmed to be Richey's car.

When the police and Graham Edwards arrived to check it out, they found evidence that it had been lived in for a while. Burger wrappers and empty drink cartons littered the foot-wells. The driver's chair had been reclined to facilitate sleep. The car's battery was flat. The last music that Richey heard was Nirvana's In Utero album - the tape was in the car's music player. Also present was a carrier bag full of photographs of his family.

His sister Rachel publicly recalled him taking them only a month before. None were posed. They were each of his family going about their daily business, for example his mother doing the ironing.

The car's battery was recharged and Graham drove it back to the Edwards family home in Blackwood. Of its owner there remains no sign.

Books about the Manic Street Preachers

Let me personally recommend Simon Price's book. It's the best biography of the Manic Street Preachers that I've read so far.

Richey Edwards: Suicide or the Perfect Disappearance?

Only those who don't know the details (and the South Wales Police) think it was suicide. The Manics, their families, friends and fans, all tend towards the latter.

In 1994, there wasn't the profusion of CCTV cameras that exist in Britain today.

There were security cameras on the car-park in Aust, but it took two years for the police to get around to viewing the footage. It was reported that Richey was not identified from it.

A shocking fact remains that the Severn Bridges (both the old one in focus here and the new one, which carries the motorway today) are not monitored. A cynical part of my mind states that they're the only blind spots in the British Isles.

The fact remains that we can't just switch on a tape and watch what Richey did after parking up in Aust on February 14th 1995.

The South Wales police have intimated to Richey's family that they assume suicide. The reasoning here is two-fold: 

  • The fact of his fame means that he'd find it more difficult than most to simply disappear. People would randomly recognize him. To my mind, the trouble with that is they'd all be looking for Richey James the Manic Street Preacher. His aspect changed enormously when he wiped the mascara and eye-liner off.  Nor would that famous mop of black hair be in evidence. A week before Richey left, he shaved his head into a crew-cut.  In short, he no longer looked like the millions of pictures available of Richey Manic.
  • The Severn Bridge (both of them) is a renowned and notorious suicide spot.  This is a statement which I've read constantly during the past two decades. I accepted it as genuine. It sounds right and the police were saying it. It's only this week that it occurred to me to investigate further. 99% of the online references relate to theories about Richey. Beyond that, I've found a grand total of three Severn Bridge suicides in twenty years. Define 'notorious'.

In further support of the suicide theory, we only have the fact that Richey was undoubtedly troubled. He seemed like a candidate for suicide and, in fact, had been pointedly asked about it in interviews. Only a few months before, Richey told a journalist, "In terms of the S-word (referring to suicide), that does not enter my mind. And it never has done, in terms of an attempt. Because I am stronger than that."

Words and actions can be two totally different things. Nevertheless, you have all of the evidence to fit around a conclusion of suicide.

As for the rest of us, the fact that Richey was obviously planning something with his money withdrawals and clues left behind points to another conclusion. His friend and journalist Caitlin Moran summed it up quite nicely:

Richey was one of the most possibly the most intelligent people I have ever met.... For months before his disappearance Richey had been obsessed with the Perfect Disappearance - people who sucked themselves out of their social circuit and were never seen again. He bought dozens of books and studied the subject very carefully.

A Word to the Wise: Stay Away
- Caitlin Moran

Over the past two decades, sightings are rare, but do occur. Throughout the early 1990s, people reported seeing Richey in Berlin and Poland. His dissertation had been written about the Holocaust and his interest in the subject had continued (there were two songs about it on The Holy Bible). It was theorized that maybe he was touring concentration camp sites.

Another came from New York City, though that was never fully confirmed.

The most famous, and apparently credible, glimpse of Richey came in November 1996, when a music teacher from Swansea thought he saw him in Goa, India. Vyvyan Morris reported sitting down in a cafe, when he noticed a young man at the table opposite. The dark-haired individual looked 'out of it'. He was wearing a kaftan and had matted hair.

Mr Morris thought that he knew him from somewhere, but couldn't work it out. The second that he did, he looked up to find his potential Richey boarding a minibus. Mr Morris immediately asked a local if he knew the man. The answer: yes, it was Rick, who'd been hanging around for about eighteen months.

Once the story became public, Richey's sister Rachel revealed that the family had heard of other sightings in Goa before this one.

The Metropolitan Police followed up the lead, but again drew a blank.

Exactly two years later, a British barmaid named Tracey Jones, working in the Underground club in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, thought that she may have served Richey Edwards a drink. In October 2004, a Manics fan named Lee Wilde believed that he might have spotted Richey on Famara Beach, in Lanzarote.

Since Richey went missing, the Manic Street Preachers have continued to put aside a quarter of their earnings in a trust fund for their errant guitarist. It was eventually accessible by his family in 2008, when they finally declared him legally dead. But that was only to be able to sort out his financial estate. Rachel still publicly maintains that her family believes him to be alive.

Twenty years on, it's possible that we'll never know for certain.

More about the Manic Street Preachers

On February 1st 1995, Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers booked out of his hotel in London. He was seen in various locations in Wales, then never seen again.
On August 29th 2014, we will be marking twenty years of The Holy Bible. This is probably the most important album of my lifetime. You'll either love it or hate it.
Updated: 06/16/2014, JoHarrington
 
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JoHarrington on 09/12/2014

'What would I give just for one of your smiles
Just for one of your smiles...'

Yes.

wendy silvey on 09/12/2014

Same here. He will always be loved by everyone :-)

JoHarrington on 09/12/2014

You know I concur with that. Though I do wish he'd not disappeared on us like that.

wendy silvey on 09/12/2014

Hes a sweetheart

JoHarrington on 09/12/2014

<3

wendy silvey on 09/12/2014

And me

JoHarrington on 09/12/2014

Yes. xxx Miss him a lot.

wendy silvey on 09/12/2014

Hes a sweetheart jo xx

JoHarrington on 09/12/2014

You and me both! :D *gives you a big cyber hug*

wendy silvey on 09/11/2014

Richey is still alive im sure:-)


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