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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Searching for missing children
Dan Nolan
Dan Nolan went missing on New Year's Day
As the National Missing Persons Helpline reaches its 10th anniversary, BBC News Online's Duncan Walker speaks to two families who have come to rely on its support.

The parents of teenagers Dan Nolan and Damien Nettles believe their sons were abducted and that the cases could even be linked.

When 14-year-old Dan Nolan vanished on a late-night fishing trip on New Year's Day, police told his family that he had probably drowned.

Damien Nettles
Damien's parents want to know what happened to him
He has now been missing for six months, and his mother, Pauline, is increasingly convinced that the explanation is too simple.

She said her son is a good swimmer and was well aware of the dangers of Hampshire's River Hamble, where he had been with three friends.

"I personally think there was an unsavoury character around that night that somehow took Dan," Mrs Nolan said.

'No bodies'

Three miles away, on the Isle of Wight, the family of 16-year-old Damien Nettles had also struggled to convince police that their son was abducted.


I can only think that someone has done something to my son

Valerie Nettles
Damien was last seen in a chip shop in Cowes on 2 November 1996.

His mother, Valerie, thinks he was taken by one or more of a group of six men caught on the restaurant's security camera.

Mrs Nettles said only two of the men have ever been identified and that someone in the group could have lured Damien onto a boat.

With the more recent case of Dan Nolan in mind, she said: "It's interesting that both our sons went missing in the same area within a few years and there's no sign of a body.

"You would have thought the at least one of them would have turned up."

'Live in hope'

While Mrs Nettles has started to accept that her son is unlikely to be found alive, Mrs Nolan remains hopeful.

Dan Nolan
Dan's parents believe he will be home one day
Extensive searches of the River Hamble have been carried out and the fact that no trace of Dan has ever been found have encouraged her to campaign for information.

She said: "Dan is in my mind 24/7 and I'm aware there could be a negative outcome, but we live in hope that he will be found."

Mrs Nolan has promised Dan's three younger brothers and sister that she and her husband Greg will do everything they can to find him.

"We talk about what we will do when he comes home and we enjoy talking about him," Mrs Nettles said.

"But I cry, my husband cries, my children cry."

Struggled

Since Damien's disappearance his family have had to move to the US, where he originally came from.


When Dan went missing it was a whirlwind, they never hesitated to help in any way they can.

Pauline Nolan
But Mrs Nettles said her struggle to find out what happened to her son will never end.

She said: "I can only think that someone has done something to my son. I have never thought he ran away," she said.

Both the Nolan and Nettles families have struggled to get the levels of publicity that the case of Amanda Dowler has attracted.

Amanda, known as Milly, went missing in March in Surrey on her way home from school.

Her disappearance, and the police's inquiry into it, has attracted much national media interest, although the 14-year-old has still not been found.

While the Nolans and Nettles are envious - but certainly not begrudging - of the interest in Milly, the families said the National Missing Persons Helpline has been a vital ally.

'Whirlwind'

"Without them I don't think Damien would even have been an issue - no one would even know he was missing," Mrs Nettles said.

"When a girl goes missing there's a lot of media interest - and that's great - but when a boy goes missing it's much less interesting."

Mrs Nolan went further, calling on police to pass details of all missing people to the charity.

"They have been absolutely brilliant, " she said.

"When Dan went missing it was a whirlwind, they never hesitated to help in any way they could."

See also:

01 Jul 02 | UK
05 Feb 02 | England
09 Jan 02 | England
03 Jan 02 | England
30 Jun 02 | England
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