Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Marsh search for Isle of Wight teenager's body

Damien Nettles
Image caption The last sighting of Damien was on CCTV at Yorkie's fish and chip shop

Police investigating the disappearance of a teenager on the Isle of Wight 14 years ago have begun a new search for his body.

Four people from the island and one from Kent were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of murdering Damien Nettles, who disappeared in 1996, aged 16.

Officers sealed off an area of marshland near the Newport-Cowes footpath in Newport's Stag Lane area.

The ground will be examined for human remains over the next few days.

'Sensitive information'

Damien Nettles vanished after a night out in West Cowes on 2 November 1996.

Det Ch Insp Dave Powell of Hampshire Constabulary 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."

Image caption At the time of his disappearance the teenager lived with his family in Woodvale Road

He added that it was "important for the community to keep expectations for this search in perspective" as they could not guarantee anything would be found.

'Terrible place'

At the time of his disappearance the teenager lived with his family in Woodvale Road, Gurnard, but they have since moved to the US.

The last confirmed sighting of Damien was on CCTV at Yorkie's fish and chip shop in Cowes High Street at about 2335 GMT on the night he disappeared.

He has not been seen since, despite his family keeping his disappearance in the spotlight over the years.

The arrested men from the Isle of Wight are a 50-year-old from Newport, a 48-year-old from Sandown, a 44-year-old from Cowes and a 37-year-old from Ryde.

A 39-year-old man from Gravesend, Kent, was also questioned.

All have been released on bail.

Valerie Nettles, Damien's mother, who now lives in Texas, said: "I would love to have an end to this and know where my son is. At this point, as a mum, I just want his body back so that I can bury him.

"The not knowing is the worst thing. It's a terrible place to be."

Last year the family held a billboard campaign in Newport to mark the 14th anniversary of his disappearance.

It featured Damien's face and the question: "Do you think you know what happened?"

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