South East Wales

Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards' sister Rachel Elias backs law change

The sister of rock star Richey Edwards is backing calls by MPs for more rights for the families of missing people.

Rachel Elias's family finally registered the Manic Street Preachers' guitarist presumed dead in October 2008, 13 years after he disappeared on February 1, 1995.

She said under the current system families face a "legal minefield" at a time they are already distressed.

The Ministry of Justice says it will "carefully consider" the issues.

In a report, the Commons Justice Select Committee calls for legislation based on Scotland's 1977 Presumption of Death Act in England and Wales.

The MPs say the Ministry of Justice should legislate for a single certificate declaring someone "presumed dead."

Some believe Edwards, from Blackwood, south Wales, took his own life at the age of 27, and his car was later found near the Severn Bridge.

His sister told BBC Radio Wales it was a very difficult decision for her family to go to court to have her brother declared "presumed dead."

"It's a strong term - presumption of death," she said.

"It's very upsetting because the court will state that that person is deceased, whilst in your heart you hope that they aren't.

"You still hope and pray they will come back."

Image caption Rachel Elias wants more rights for the families of missing people

She said her family started the process of declaring him dead in 2005 and it was not until the end of 2008 the matter was settled in court.

"For many other families that I've met who have had to deal with issues such as dissolving their marriage or sorting out joint assets the problem becomes even more problematic."

She said the report calls for family members to be allowed to manage the affairs of missing people while they are away.

"As well as the emotional impact of dealing with a missing person there is the practical financial aspect of that person's life - bills to pay and mortgages.

"You are already in a traumatic situation because they've gone, you don't know where they are, but you are also left with this legal minefield and this act will hopefully address that.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said it recognised "the emotional and practical difficulties" faced by those whose loved ones are missing and thought to be dead.

"We are already working to improve guidance relating to Coroners' powers where a person is missing and presumed dead and will look at other areas where guidance could be improved.

"We will carefully consider all the recommendations from the Justice Select Committee and will respond shortly."

More on this story