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Damien Nettles went missing after a night out with friends in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1996

On a wet and stormy November night in 1996 Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles went out with a friend for the evening. But he never came back. Damien, then aged 16, had gone into a shop in East Cowes with the friend before they went their separate ways at 10.30pm. He was seen on CCTV at Yorkies fish and chip shop in West Cowes at around 11:35pm. View the CCTV footage (.wmv, 4.12MB). (*Please note, the clock on the CCTV is one hour fast. This footage is protected by copyright)

But since that night of November 2, 1996, there has been no trace of Damien, whose family then lived in Woodvale Road, Gurnard. They have since moved to Texas in the USA, but continue to actively appeal for information about their son.

"Damo", as he was known to his friends, had a great sense of humour. He had an unusual mannerism of blowing on his thumb, in the way that tennis players are often seen doing. He was also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and trombone, and was looking forward to a try-out with friends with hopes of being involved in the formation of a small band.

Damien also enjoyed computer games and sea fishing and occasionally used weights and body building equipment. Damien was developing into a deep thinker and had taken an interest in psychology, often discussing the subject with his older sister.

At the time he disappeared Damien was a tall, slim lad, about 6ft 3ins, and possibly still growing. He had had a short hair cut, but was known to favour longer hair. He had talked about growing a beard, probably favouring a goatee style. He had a small scar under his chin.

In October 2007, the charity Missing People (then known as National Missing Persons Helpline) produced a new age-enhanced image of Damien, showing him at 27 (see image, right).

Damien had a good relationship with his family and always made a point of phoning home if he was going to stay with friends. Despite several reported sightings in various parts of the country, including Salisbury, Bath and Bristol, there has been no trace of Damien or of any of his clothing that he was wearing at the time of his disappearance.

The investigation into Damien's disappearance, called Operation Ridgewood, is being handled by Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Team.

2016 anniversary appeal

Hampshire Constabulary files for the case of a teenager, who went missing 20 years ago this week, are staying open for any new facts that can be reported to police

16-year-old Damien Nettles was last seen in Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Saturday, November 2, 1996.

The final confirmed sighting of Damien on surviving available CCTV was in the former Yorkie's fish and chip shop off Cowes High Street at 11.35pm on November 2, 1996.

Damien was also positively identified by his family from CCTV on Cowes High Street at 12.02am on Sunday, November 3, 1996. This footage showed Damien walking to a bus stop and then back along the High Street eating chips.

On the night of his disappearance, Damien was described as:

· White
· Six foot three inches tall
· Slim build
· Short brown hair, shaved at the back
· Brown eyes

He was last seen wearing:

· A black fleece jacket
· Dark blue jeans
· Black boots

Hampshire Constabulary is aware of a petition calling for extra funding towards a police investigation. At this time, no new facts and no new lines of enquiry have been identified; this includes an assessment of information received following a BBC Three documentary published in July this year about the case.

Any further investigations or searches for human remains would require a substantial investment of police time, expertise and resources. Officers would need verifiable information to justify such a search. A key point to repeat and remember is the reporting of any new facts, not fictions fuelled by the repetition of rumour.

Regular checks of information reported to police will continue to be made by Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime team. A detective keeps in contact with the Nettles family about any updates, and opportunities to raise awareness of the case such as public events and anniversaries related to Damien.

The work of Operation Ridgewood to investigate Damien Nettles's disappearance since 1996 has included:

● 1,134 people involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.
● 357 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996.
● 2,553 documents have been reviewed and processed.
● Between 2010 and 2012, it was necessary for detectives to concentrate on analysing and acting upon the information already passed to police by the local community.
● This analysis led police in 2011 to arrest eight people who were questioned over the course of a year, and later released with no further action.
● Officers focused on completing existing enquiries while multiple suspects were on bail. We did not charge anyone with a criminal offence.
● Murder or foul play cannot be ruled out.

● Hampshire Constabulary offered a £20,000 reward between October 4, 2012 and April 4, 2013 for facts leading to the location of Damien Nettles.
● Police received 30 reports of information.
● Each of the 30 reports of information has been analysed and assessed in line with police procedures.
● None of the information led to new lines of enquiry. However, the case was not closed.
● A decision was made in November 2013 for the files on Damien Nettles to remain open for ongoing checks, following an extensive review of all information gathered. 

How to contact police if you have new facts
 
Anyone with new facts about Damien or his disappearance can contact police by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk
 
Mini-com users can phone 18001 101. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111. 

*************************************

November 15 2013

Hampshire Constabulary is taking further action to keep the case of a missing Isle of Wight teenager open for any new leads.

A decision has been made this week for the files on Damien Nettles to remain with the Hampshire Major Investigation team (HMIT) for ongoing regular checks.

The move follows an extensive review of all information gathered by police during enquiries into Damien's disappearance in November 1996.

Chief Superintendent Dave Powell of Hampshire Constabulary said:

"This decision does not mean the case is closed. Instead, the police files on Damien's disappearance remain open for colleagues in the Hampshire Major Investigation Team (HMIT) to examine regularly."

*************************************

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Police comment on extension to businessman's £10,000 reward


A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said:

"We remain in contact with the businessman offering this £10,000 reward. Any information received will be checked in line   with police standards for evidence. This process will decide whether any new lines of enquiry and police action can be justified.

"We always appreciate every single sincere thought and effort to help the police in any case.

"Any search for human remains requires a substantial investment of police time, expertise and resources. Officers would need verifiable information to justify such a search."

Wednesday, July 28, 2013

Response to anonymous businessman's offer of an independent £10,000 reward

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said:

"We always appreciate every single sincere thought and effort to help the police in any investigation.

"However, we must remain mindful that the 30 pieces of information received in response to a £20,000 police reward only repeated previous unfounded speculation, contained factually inaccurate details, or fell short of police standards for a reliable source.

"As a result, Hampshire Constabulary took the difficult decision not to extend our reward offer beyond six months in April 2013.

"Police investigating the disappearance of Damien Nettles are continuing a review of all information available to date. A senior detective is dedicating time to examine more than 2,500 documents from this case to assess whether any other potential leads exist, and consider what other reasonable actions the police could take.

"Any search for human remains requires a substantial investment of police time, expertise and resources. Officers would need verifiable information to justify such a search. "

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

The Mini-com number, which is used by deaf and hard of hearing callers, has changed to Minicom TextRelay 18001 101.

Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

http://www.hampshire.police.uk/internet/news-and-appeals/casebook/casebook-damien-nettles

Friday, April 5, 2013

Police investigating the disappearance of Damien Nettles on the Isle of Wight are starting a fresh review of all information available in the case to date.

The decision comes at the end of a six-month period during which a £20,000 police reward was on offer for facts leading to the location of the teenager, who was last seen in Cowes on November 2, 1996.

Following the announcement of the reward on October 4, 2012, police received 30 reports of information up until this Thursday (April 4, 2013).

Hampshire Constabulary would like to thank everyone who responded to the reward in good faith with genuine attempts to assist our investigation.

Each of the 30 reports of information has been analysed and assessed in line with police procedures. None of the information led to new lines of enquiry. However, the case will not be closed.

Conclusions of the Senior Investigating Officer

Hampshire Constabulary's Operation Ridgewood Senior Investigating Officer Superintendent David Powell said:

"I am disappointed that the offer of a £20,000 reward over six months has not led to any new facts or credible leads on the location of Damien Nettles.

"The reward has been publicised extensively since last October, and the police remain grateful to all the people and organisations that have given time and support in encouraging information from the public.

"Regrettably and reluctantly, we've had to face the conclusion that the offer of a reward has not taken us any closer to finding out what happened to Damien."

Reward won't be extended

Superintendent Powell said:

"Therefore, Hampshire Constabulary has taken the difficult decision not to extend the reward.

"Although we always appreciate every single sincere thought and effort to help the police - the information we have received since October has repeated previous unfounded speculation, contained factually inaccurate details - or fallen short of police standards for a reliable source.

"I understand and respect the Nettles family's views on why the reward should be extended, but after much deliberation and careful consideration, I am not convinced at this time that the extension of a police reward can bring us closer to finding Damien.

"I have contacted Damien's mother Valerie personally on Friday to inform her of this decision, and explain the reasons.

"I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the courage and tenacity of the Nettles family. We are acutely aware that this difficult decision is a disappointment, but our choice not to extend the reward does not mean the case is being closed.

Operation Ridgewood case files to be reviewed to assess what action the police can take next

Superintendent David Powell said:

"Hampshire Constabulary has already dedicated significant time and effort into finding out what happened to Damien Nettles.

● 1,127 people have been involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.

● 357 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996.

● 2,536 documents have been reviewed and processed.

● Between 2010 and 2012, it was necessary for the Hampshire Major Investigation Team (HMIT) to concentrate on analysing and acting upon the information already passed to police by the local community. This led police to arrest eight people who were questioned over the course of a year, and later released with no further action. Officers needed to focus on completing existing enquiries while multiple suspects were on bail. We did not charge anyone with a criminal offence.

● Murder or foul play cannot be ruled out.

Superintendent Powell added:

"I will now be dedicating further time to review all the files and information we have gathered in this case so far.

"It's important in any case of this size to pause for reflection, take stock, assess whether any other potential leads exist, and consider what other reasonable actions the police could take.

"I will be keeping the Nettles family informed about my latest review of the case over the next few weeks before reaching a decision on what will happen next.

"In the meantime, the case files remain open for any new facts that members of the public may have."

Case background

The last confirmed sighting of Damien on surviving available CCTV is Damien in Yorkie's fish and chip shop off Cowes High Street at 11.35pm on Saturday, November 2, 1996.

Damien was also positively identified by his family from CCTV of Cowes High Street at 12.02am on Sunday, November 3, 1996. This footage showed Damien walking to a bus stop and then back along the High Street eating his chips.

At the time of his disappearance, the description of Damien was:

● White
● Six foot three inches tall
● slim build
● short brown hair, shaved at the back
● brown eyes

He was last seen wearing:

● A black fleece jacket
● Dark blue jeans
● Black boots

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailingoperation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000.

Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A man arrested on suspicion of being involved in the possible murder of missing teenager Damien Nettles on the Isle of Wight was released from bail with no further action today (Sunday, June 10, 2012).

A 38-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight answered a re-scheduled police bail appointment, and was questioned further by detectives from the Hampshire Major Investigation Team (HMIT).

There was insufficient evidence to charge him with a criminal offence.

No other suspects remain on police bail for Damien's disappearance or possible murder at this time. Damien's body has not been located.

A total of eight people have been arrested and questioned on suspicion of being involved in the possible murder of Damien Nettles.

Senior investigating officer Superintendent Dave Powell said:  "Our work to find out exactly what happened to Damien Nettles will be continuing.

"Although we have not charged anyone with a criminal offence, it has been exceptionally important to investigate information passed to us by the local community, which led to these arrests.   "Murder cannot be ruled out at this time because such a wide range of information has been received about Damien's disappearance since 1996.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Nettles family for their understanding and support throughout this investigation. Detectives have updated the family this week on the latest decisions in this case.

"Hampshire Constabulary also appreciates the considerable co-operation and assistance of partner agencies, charities, businesses, the media and the public in maintaining awareness and encouraging new tangible leads."

Hampshire Constabulary actions in this case so far include:

  • Police have received at least 33 pieces of information since the 14th anniversary of Damien Nettles' disappearance on November 2, 2010. 
  • 1,025 people have been involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.
  • 332 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996. 
  • 2,121 documents have been reviewed and processed.   More information can be viewed on Hampshire Constabulary's website under the 'Casebook' section, which highlights ongoing investigations: http://www.hampshire.police.uk/Internet/news/casebook/index.htm

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk 

Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two people arrested on suspicion of being involved in the possible murder of missing teenager Damien Nettles on the Isle of Wight were released from bail with no further action this afternoon (Thursday, June 7, 2012).

A 36-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight and a 45-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight answered police bail and were questioned further by detectives from the Hampshire Major Investigation Team (HMIT).

There was insufficient evidence to charge them with a criminal offence.

A 38-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight was not able to answer his police bail as scheduled today (Thursday, June 7, 2012). Officers will arrange a new appointment in due course for him to be questioned further.

More information about the investigation can be viewed on Hampshire Constabulary's website under the 'Casebook' section, which highlights ongoing investigations: http://www.hampshire.police.uk/Internet/news/casebook/index.htm

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 (Statement on information from seances)

Senior investigating officer Superintendent David Powell said:  "Hampshire Constabulary has received a substantial amount of information about Damien and his possible whereabouts since 1996. A dedicated group of officers from the Hampshire Major Investigation Team remains focused on existing lines of enquiry while three suspects are on police bail until June.

"Whilst we appreciate and encourage the support of the public to help us to solve crimes, detectives in this case will not act on information from séances. Police must act on tangible sources, which can be checked and verified in line with established police procedures.

"Hampshire Constabulary will always value genuine efforts to pass on information that may prove helpful to police in their enquiries. However, to date, no firm evidence has been provided to police by clairvoyants or séances."

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000.   The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700.   Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Police can confirm three people arrested on suspicion of being involved in the suspected murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles in 1996 all had their bail extended today (Wednesday, March 7, 2012).  A 38-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight, a 36-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight, and a 45-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight, will remain on police bail until Thursday, June 7, 2012 pending further enquiries.

Tuesday, February 21 2012: The option of a reward for information

Senior investigating officer Superintendent David Powell said:  "I do not rule out any options completely in our investigation to find out what happened to Damien Nettles. However, at this time, a dedicated team of officers remains firmly focused on current lines of enquiry while suspects are on police bail.

"Hampshire Constabulary, the Nettles family and many other organisations have issued a wide range of appeals during this investigation since 1996. I remain grateful for all the publicity and support these have received.

"We continue to publish information about the case, and invite anyone with information to contact police by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk . Mini-Com users can call police on 01962 875000. The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

"Police took action in response to information from the public by arresting eight people in total last year on suspicion of being involved in Damien's disappearance and possible murder. Three of those suspects remain on police bail pending our existing enquiries, which we are determined to pursue to their conclusion.

"Hampshire Constabulary has received a substantial amount of information about Damien and his possible whereabouts since 1996. We were encouraged that a search of one possible burial site for Damien's body in May 2011 prompted some extra information from members of the public as well.

"Regrettably, we must always be mindful that there have been many false and potentially malicious pieces of information from the public, plus conjecture and rumour. Such unfounded speculation can disrupt other more promising lines of enquiry. Nevertheless, a team of experienced detectives will keep an open mind about exactly what happened to Damien because a considerable range of information has been received since 1996.".

UPDATE: Thursday, February 2, 2012

Police can confirm five men arrested in May 2011 on suspicion of murdering missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles in 1996 were due to answer bail on Wednesday, February 1, 2012).

A 38-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight was re-bailed until March 7, 2012 pending further enquiries.  

A 48-year-old man from Sandown, Isle of Wight was released from bail with no further action.

A 45-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight was released from bail with no further action.

A 50-year-old man from Newport, Isle of Wight was released from bail with no further action.

A 40-year-old man from Gravesend, Kent was released from bail with no further action.

If further significant evidence becomes available at a later date, these decisions can be reconsidered.

UPDATE: Thursday, January 26, 2012

Police investigating the suspected murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles have re-bailed a woman who was arrested on Tuesday, November 1, 2011. A 35-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight had her bail extended until March 7, 2012 pending further enquiries led by detectives from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department.

A 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight was not able to report to Newport police station on the Isle of Wight to answer his bail as scheduled yesterday (Wednesday, January 25, 2012). Officers will arrange a new appointment in due course for him to answer bail formally. A decision had been made already by police to extend his bail to March 7, 2012 as well, pending further enquiries.

UPDATE: Friday, November 18, 2011

Police investigating the suspected murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles have re-bailed two people who were arrested on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.

A 35-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight and a 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight answered bail at Newport Police Station on the island on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.

They were re-bailed until January 25, 2012 pending further enquiries led by detectives from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department.

UPDATE: Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Police investigating the suspected murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles have finished searching a property on Marsh Road in Gurnard near Cowes on the Isle of Wight today (Wednesday, November 2, 2011).

The address was sealed off on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 for examination by specialist officers, staff and equipment from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department, Dog Support Unit, Scientific Services Department, and the Island Support Unit (ISU).

Police carried out a fingertip search of the property, surveyed the ground inside and outside the address, excavated the back garden, and deployed victim recovery dogs. No evidence or human remains were found. The search at a property in Marsh Road in Gurnard took place alongside the questioning of two people on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

The two people are:

A 35-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight
A 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight

They were arrested on Tuesday morning (November 1, 2011), questioned by detectives at Newport Police Station, released from police custody this afternoon (Wednesday, November 2, 2011) and bailed until November 16, 2011 pending further enquiries.

Senior Investigating Officer, Superintendent David Powell, said:  "We are disappointed that Damien has not been found yet, but this search was necessary to allow a thorough assessment of information about the Marsh Road property to be completed. As a result, police are confident that Damien's body is not at the address.

"I've phoned Damien's mother Valerie to speak with her about the outcome of the search at Marsh Road and the status of the two suspects arrested. We remain grateful to the Nettles family for continuing their campaign to maintain awareness and encourage new leads. We also welcome the ongoing support of the media, charities, professional partner agencies, local businesses and the community.

"Today's 15th anniversary of Damien's disappearance is an important date to highlight the rigorous and persistent enquiries that will continue into exactly what happened to the 16-year-old in 1996. Police have taken action in response to information received over the past 18 months by making arrests. Seven suspects remain on police bail, and further pieces of detail or evidence from members of the public could still prove to be important in solving this case."

Hampshire Constabulary actions in this case so far include:(as of the 15th anniversary this week)

  • Police have received at least 33 pieces of information since the 14th anniversary of Damien Nettles' disappearance on November 2, 2010.
  • 1,025 people have been involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.
  • 332 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996.
  • 2,121 documents have been reviewed and processed.

Further information can be viewed on Hampshire Constabulary's website under the 'Casebook' section, which highlights ongoing investigations: http://www.hampshire.police.uk/Internet/news/casebook/index.htm

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.ddd

UPDATE: Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Police are taking further action in response to information about the disappearance and suspected murder of a teenager on the Isle of Wight.

Detectives from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department continue to pursue leads established during this summer and the past 18 months.

Two people were arrested this morning (Tuesday, November 1, 2011) on the island on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

The two people are:

A 35-year-old woman from Cowes, Isle of Wight
A 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight

They are being questioned in police custody.

The two arrests are combined with the start of a new search for Damien's body and evidence linked to his whereabouts at an address in Marsh Road, Gurnard near Cowes. Officers entered the property this morning (Tuesday, November 1, 2011) and sealed off the grounds for examination by specialist officers and equipment. The address will be searched this week as part of enquiries to move the investigation forward.

Senior Investigating Officer, Superintendent David Powell said: "Damien's body has not been located or identified at the moment and we are cautious in our expectations for this search. I can't guarantee that anything will be found at an early stage. This action is necessary because the information received about the address on Marsh Road in Gurnard cannot be fully assessed until the property is searched thoroughly.

"We are always mindful that there have been many false and malicious allegations about whereabouts of Damien over the past 15 years. Such unfounded speculation upsets the Nettles family, and can disrupt other more promising lines of enquiry. Therefore, any decisions to examine possible burial sites are not taken lightly because of the amount of police time and officers required. Although this search is taking place around the 15th anniversary of Damien's disappearance, months of planning have gone into this phase of the operation since June 2011 with certain key resources becoming available at the start of this month.

"Specialist officers completed a search of Dodnor Nature Reserve in Newport on the island and surrounding areas for Damien's body and any evidence between May 12 and May 14, 2011. We were disappointed that none of the items recovered from the nature reserve were relevant to the investigation. However, this search and subsequent enquiries were necessary to finish pursuing a specific lead. The information that led to this search is not being treated as false or malicious.  Furthermore, we were pleased that the search in May 2011 did prompt extra useful information from members of the public.

"The determination and persistence of the Nettles family is crucial to reinforce awareness of this case and encourage new leads. Our focus is fixed on finding Damien and I would ask that the community remembers, and reflects on, his disappearance again this week. Even after 15 years, the smallest piece of detail from a member of the public could prove to be an essential element in establishing a significant line of enquiry. We also appreciate the assistance of charities, partner agencies, businesses, the media and the local community to keep the efforts to discover Damien's whereabouts in the public eye.

"Although murder is a prominent line of enquiry at this time, detectives retain an open mind about exactly what happened to Damien because a wide range of information has been received over the past 15 years."

Further information can be viewed on Hampshire Constabulary's website under the 'Casebook' section, which highlights ongoing investigations: http://www.hampshire.police.uk/Internet/news/casebook/index.htm

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Detectives made a sixth arrest on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. A 38-year-old man from East Cowes, Isle of Wight was arrested on suspicion of murder in the Newport area of Isle of Wight and taken into custody at Newport Police Station for questioning. He was bailed until October 25, 2011 pending further enquiries. He was later released from bail in October 2011 with no further action. News of this arrest was not announced publicly at the time to help protect ongoing discreet lines of enquiry in this investigation. The mother of Damien Nettles, Valerie, was contacted by police on July 20, 2011 about the sixth arrest.

UPDATE: Thursday, September 14, 2011


Police can confirm five men arrested on May 10, 2011 on suspicion of murdering missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles in 1996 answered police bail on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.

All five men were re-bailed until February 1, 2012 pending further enquiries.

The five men are:

> A 48-year-old man from Sandown, Isle of Wight
> A 45-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight
> A 50-year-old man from Newport, Isle of Wight
> A 37-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight
> A 40-year-old man from Gravesend, Kent

Detectives continue to follow leads established over the past 18 months about what happened to Damien Nettles in 1996.

Damien's body has not been located or identified at this time.

Anyone with information about the Damien Nettles case can contact Hampshire Constabulary by phoning 101 or emailing operation.ridgewood@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

From outside Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, call police on 0845 045 45 45. Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000.

The charity Missing People (formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline) can be contacted in confidence on Freefone 0500 700 700.

Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

UPDATE: Friday, June 10, 2011

A fifth man, aged 39, from Gravesend, Kent, was re-bailed on Thursday, June 9, 2011 until September 14, 2011 pending further enquiries into the suspected murder of missing teenager Damien Nettles on the Isle of Wight in 1996.

UPDATE: Thursday, June 9, 2011

Four men arrested on May 10, 2011 on suspicion of murdering missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles in 1996 answered police bail on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

All four men were re-bailed until September 14, 2011 pending further enquiries.

The four men are:

A 48-year-old man from Sandown, Isle of Wight
A 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight
A 50-year-old man from Newport, Isle of Wight
A 37-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight

UPDATE: Saturday, May 14, 2011

Police investigating the possible murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles have concluded a search of an area of marshland near Newport today (Saturday, May 14). Specialist water search officers from the constabulary's Force Support Unit completed their search at 3.15pm.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Powell, said:  "The police have completed an exhaustive, detailed search of Dodnor Nature Reserve and surrounding areas. As a result of this search we have not found Damien, and, further more, we are confident that he is not there. "This is exceptionally disappointing to us in many ways, however the search for Damien goes on and, as ever, we urge anyone who has information that they think can help us to make contact."

A number of items were recovered throughout the search which have been removed from the scene and will be examined in due course to establish whether they have any relevance to this investigation or any other police inquiry. Five people arrested on Tuesday (May 10) in connection with the suspected murder of Damien remain on police bail.

UPDATE: Friday, May 13, 2011

Police investigating the possible murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles plan to continue a search for his body tomorrow (Saturday, May 14, 2011).

A section of marshland next to the Newport-Cowes cycleway and footpath in the Stag Lane area of Newport remains sealed off after the search started on Thursday morning (May 12, 2011).

The cycleway and footpath on a bridge over the marshland are still open to all members of the public at this time.

The initial search area extends for 50 metres in both directions from the western and eastern sides of the bridge. The size of the search area is subject to change as the operation continues.

Specialist police officers from Hampshire Constabulary's Force Support Unit (FSU) and Island Support Unit (ISU) are using a range of techniques to examine the area for human remains. Six officers from a water search and recovery team have been looking for evidence underwater and on marshland over the past two days.

PC Nick Humphreys of Hampshire Constabulary's Force Support Unit (FSU) said:  "We're all fully trained in water search and recovery for our safety. The visibility in the water is zero, and is approximately six to 12 inches deep then you hit a thick layer of silt, mud and clay, which is probably around four to five feet deep. We're using poles and our feet to strike anything that is solid. It is an arduous task, we are going in up to our knees, sometimes our waists, but we are systematically searching through the mud trying to indicate any objects in that mud and silt."

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Dave Powell of Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department said:  "The area we're continuing to search was identified after the police received more information about the possible whereabouts of Damien Nettles' body. We're still not in a position to discuss the details because it is important for the police to protect how they gather sensitive information. "Officers from our Force Support Unit and Island Support Unit have a great deal of expertise and experience in carrying out these types of searches in demanding conditions. A wide range of objects have been recovered from the water since Thursday morning. These include old tyres, handbags, mobile phones, bottles and masonry. It's impossible to tell straight away whether an item found by the police will have any connection or significance to our investigation. Therefore, it's also important for the media and the public not to draw hasty conclusions about any items discovered by officers during this search. Unfounded speculation about this case in the past has upset the Nettles family and undermined police enquiries to establish facts.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community for their understanding and co-operation while this search is continuing. We do not want to disrupt people's lives more than is necessary. Officers are particularly grateful to Isle of Wight Council, which has supplied archive aerial photographs of this marshland as part of our routine research into the geography of this area in the 1990s when Damien went missing."

UPDATE: Thursday, May 12, 2011

Police investigating the possible murder of missing Isle of Wight teenager Damien Nettles are starting a new search for his body.

Hampshire Constabulary sealed off an area of marshland next to the Newport-Cowes cycleway and footpath in the Stag Lane area of Newport earlier this morning (Thursday, May 12, 2011).

Specialist police officers are using a range of techniques and technology to examine the ground for human remains over the next few days.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Dave Powell of Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department said:  "We are responding to information received about the possible whereabouts of Damien Nettles' body. The area we're now searching was identified after the police received more information about what could have happened to Damien after his disappearance in November 1996. We're not in a position to discuss the details because it is important for the police to protect how they gather sensitive information.

"There have been false and malicious allegations about possible burial sites for Damien's body over the past 14 years. Such unfounded speculation has upset the Nettles family and wasted police time and resources. Therefore, careful consideration has been given to our decision to examine this marshland. It is important for the community to keep expectations for this search in perspective. We cannot guarantee that anything will be found at this stage."

UPDATE: Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Police investigating the disappearance of a teenager on the Isle of Wight are taking action in response to information about the case.

Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department is following leads established over the past year about what could have happened to Damien.

Five people were arrested between 5.45am and 6.30am on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 on suspicion of murdering Damien Nettles in 1996. These five suspects are being questioned by detectives at a number of different police stations across the island and Hampshire.

The five people are:
A 44-year-old man from Cowes, Isle of Wight
A 48-year-old man from Sandown, Isle of Wight
A 37-year-old man from Ryde, Isle of Wight
A 49-year-old man from Newport, Isle of Wight
A 39-year-old man from Gravesend, Kent.

These men were later bailed until June 8 and June 9, 2011 pending further enquiries.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Dave Powell said:  "Police remain determined to find and pursue new leads in this unsolved missing person case. A dedicated team of officers from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department have been working on information secured during enquiries over the past year.

"The Nettles family has displayed tremendous tenacity and courage in campaigning consistently to encourage witnesses and assistance from the community. There has been an intermittent flow of information since 1996 with people coming forward years after Damien's disappearance. This suggested there was always the possibility that members of the public had extra knowledge, which could take the investigation forward.

"We also welcome the ongoing support of charities, professional partner agencies, local businesses and the community in reinforcing awareness of the family's billboard campaign across the island over the past year.

"Although we have sufficient information to make arrests over an allegation of murder in 1996, detectives will keep an open mind about exactly what happened to Damien because a wide range of information has been received over the past 14 years. The body of Damien Nettles has not been located or identified at this time."

Hampshire Constabulary actions in this case so far include:

  • A dedicated team of officers from Hampshire Constabulary's Major Crime Department continues to work on new information.
  • At least 20 pieces of information have been given to police since the 12th anniversary of Damien Nettles' disappearance on November 2, 2008.
  • 790 people have been involved in the investigation (either as investigators, witnesses, or people of interest) since Damien Nettles disappeared on November 2, 1996.
  • 214 witness statements have been taken to date since November 2, 1996.
  • 1,380 documents have been reviewed and processed.

You can help raise Damien's profile by displaying the downloadable missing persons poster (.pdf, 459KB).