It happens every so often. An impassioned Facebook posting, or a heartbreaking plea in the national newspapers that tells us every parent’s worst nightmare: a child has gone missing.
This past week has been a bizarre week for the UK. We’ve been flying dizzily high on the coattails of the Olympics, basking in the glory of our wonderful athletes and merrily sticking two fingers up to the rest of the world (but mostly the French) at how well we’ve done.
As I logged onto Facebook last week, I was confronted with not one, but two missing children. Two beautiful young girls who had seemingly vanished into thin air. The first, 14 year old Molly O’Donovan from Banbury, Oxfordshire, disappeared on her way home from school. I forwarded on an email to everyone I knew and struggled with my desire to head up to Banbury to help search for her.
In the midst of the search for Molly another plea launched onto the Facebook timeline. This one was much closer to home. Just a few miles from my home, 12 year old Tia Sharp had gone missing. The appeal stated that she had left her grandmother's house in New Addington to make the short journey to Croydon to buy a pair of shoes.
Devastatingly, the news came on Tuesday (7th August) that Molly’s body had been found in woodlands on the outskirts of Banbury. Such a beautiful young life extinguished for reasons that haven’t been made clear. Her heartbroken family have requested no public contact and we must respect their wishes. What they are going through is unimaginable.
Following the heartbreaking discovery of Molly’s body, fears began to grow for Tia. Just twelve years old, the reports surrounding her disappearance were conflicting at best, confusing at worst. Nobody really seemed able to confirm who was the last to see her, except the unanimous confirmation that Stuart Hazell, the partner of Tia's grandmother, was the last to see her. He stated during a television interview that he walked her to the local tram station, yet no CCTV footage of Tia on any trams or buses could be found. Eventually, he stated that he was not the last person to see her. Everyone who commented on the situation shared the same opinion: something doesn’t add up.
Police forces from Yorkshire were drafted in to assist the Metropolitan Police in their search for Tia. The Yorkshire police force have unfortunate experience in searching for a missing young girl in unusual circumstances, following the bizarre and sickening events surrounding the disappearance of Shannon Matthews.
At around 5pm today (10th August, I sat back to enjoy a relaxing evening following a long day of writing when my phone buzzed. A message from a friend of mine telling me to brace myself and switch on one of the news channels.
The announcement was made that a body was found in the house of Tia’s grandmother, confirming everyone’s worst fears. The police also announced that they were launching a manhunt for Stuart Hazell, the partner of Tia’s grandmother. The same man who sat on national television and delivered a heartfelt plea for Tia’s return that convinced just about nobody.
My first thoughts at hearing both pieces of devastating news was identical in each case. Those poor, poor, beautiful little girls. They will never experience the joys and awkwardness of teenage life that we all take for granted. They will never be able to giddily recount the first time they were asked for ID and could merrily produce it. They will never experience life. It is almost too difficult to think about.
At the time of publishing this post, the Metropolitan Police have requested that anyone who sees Stuart Hazell should not approach him and should instead call 999. Everyone I know – parents in particular – are united in their shock over the events of the past week. Even one missing child is too many, but for the world to lose two beautiful young girls before they had even begun to live their lives? It's just too cruel for words.