Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl (Missing Person Documentary) | Real Stories Original

Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl (Missing Person Documentary) | Real Stories Original

December 11, 2019 100 By Peter Engel


Nobody can actually just vanish During the summer I sometimes come out for a walk, and maybe take the dog with me we normally come along here and as you can see in front of us, that’s um, that’s Box Hill That was the last place that she was seen I don’t think she planned to disappear at all, and I think something terrible has happened to her and And she’s more than likely, she’s more than likely still up there Somebody knows where she is One of the important roles of a journalist is asking questions on behalf of the public that are uncomfortable to ask Every now and again, there’s a story that just niggles away at you You can’t quite forget The disappearance of Ruth Wilson is one of those stories In 2002 I wrote an article about missing people The case of Ruth Wilson really affected me It was so unusual such a peculiar mysterious case of a 16 year old who went missing in the Surry Hills in 1995 There were multiple appeals to Ruth to come home And it was her family’s belief that she was out there somewhere. The official version suggests this is a missing persons case. This is unresolved. There is no evidence of any crime, and that is absolutely correct I, still all these years later, am haunted by the belief that that wasn’t the whole story Did she take her passport with her? Did she have a passport? We know she took a bank card. She didn’t use it She must, after 22 years, have had some dental treatment, some sort of medical treatment, national insurance Yeah. Tax. Somebody that’s 16 years of age to run away as they’re saying and Be able to give herself a brand-new identity coming from a rural village I would say is impossible yeah And so no, I can’t see her ever coming home at all. No. About a year ago The phone rang a gentleman on the other end of the line asked me whether I remembered the case of Ruth Wilson Had Liam not brought the story to me, then I would never have gone back to it I don’t know what it’s like to have lost a child, but she is a child of Dorking People of Dorking have a right to know what happened this child. Even if Mr. and Mrs. Wilson want to put it behind them, I believe everybody else has a right to know Liam has a long history at the very very toughest end of policing which includes Arresting terrorism suspects. This is a brave individual with a long police career I’ve been associated with Dorking since 1994 this happened in 1995. Now I’m just seeing it I’m taken as she said she hasn’t run away. She couldn’t have run away In retirement Liam is the man who wouldn’t let this story go You can’t just disappear. I can’t accept that She set out for school on a November morning in 1995. She decided that she didn’t really want to go that day instead she was going to go and work in the library She had sent a bunch of flowers to her stepmother to arrive two days later, and we don’t know why she did that. She ordered a taxi to take her up to a local beauty spot, Box Hill in the Surrey Hills And she simply stood by the side of the road and that was the last time that Ruth Wilson was seen alive Everything was sort of like hunky-dory certainly on the night before And that’s the real mystery for me Her parents lived in a picture-perfect Surrey village Daughter of a parish councillor Church-going, bell ringing, choir singing, organ playing girl And then something else. That’s the real hole isn’t it? She seemed happy. Was she happy? She’s dropped off at a bridleway. The taxi driver says he drove off, and he watched her standing there So she either didn’t want the taxi driver to see where she was going to go Or she was waiting to meet somebody who’s going to pick up the car This should have been treated as suspicious From the very beginning, once it became clear that there were things to be uncovered about this story and that In my role as journalist I could maybe help with that then yeah, it didn’t take long for me to decide that that’s what I was going to take It is getting a bit chilly. I was just going to say that it’s a bit chilly I’ve always felt that this is a beautiful part of the South of England. I think that Surrey is an extraordinary County and people laugh about the Home Counties and suburbia but Who wouldn’t live here if they were given half a chance? Absolutely, yeah. This is part of the story isn’t it? this is why murder mysteries and Detective stories are set in these beautiful parts of the countryside because you can’t Imagine something terrible happening here and when something terrible does happen it makes it all the more shocking When you spend 30 years looking at cases like this, it’s something that doesn’t go away It’s quite frustrating because you know there’s not really much you can do about it. You’re not part of a team anymore It’s not your job anymore. You haven’t got access to resources This was a case that came to Dorking police. Put in a Freedom of Information request Saying that I would like to have a look at the file and some of the statements. The reply got was “No we’re investigating it as a crime”. They just said missing people are classified as a crime so you know and they they couldn’t share any information with me beyond the appealed because They did not expose any police methodology My next step was trying to get in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson I sat down wrote a letter to the family Explaining who I was and would they mind if I came along and spoke to them about it um I got no response to that either so What’s really difficult is moving beyond what you already know to have happened on to what you think might have happened So I’d like to speak to local residents of the village that she lived in. Her family. Her friends We know that she spent a lot of time with her ex-boyfriend over that weekend. We knew that he was called William along with the name of the school I’ve managed to get on Facebook to to find him. I mean it’s not the most sophisticated of investigative techniques I would very much like to talk to about a story I’m researching into a missing-persons case from 1995 I believe you knew Ruth Wilson, and I would very much like to talk to you if that’s something you could face I’m trying to find out what happened to Ruth. Without the support of the police, without the support of the family and going on newspaper clippings and anything else that’s written on the internet. Um. That’s just too frustrating because I can’t get any further forward with it We’re now. We’re now. We’re now seven years down the road and I still haven’t got any further forward with it. Why you still doing it? Used to phone me at night time and say that he couldn’t sleep Because it was going over in his brain Yes But he couldn’t sleep And he’s open up a bottle of whisky or something Cause you knew that there was nothing you could do about it. It has kept him up at night It has kept him up at night. He’s extremely focused on it and I don’t blame him as well. You know, she must have been How much older than or younger than Emily, but you’ve got a daughter yourself You know I’ve got a 16 year old daughter, and it is It’s something relatable really. Very relatable if the daughter just went missing and there was no reason for her She wasn’t the kind of girl that would run away If that was my daughter I don’t think I could ever rest. Anybody that offered any genuine form of assistance I would accept it. I wouldn’t ignore it. I’m leaving message for Ian Wilson. It’s Martin Bright calling here I’ve got to this stage where I’m thinking hold on Hello? it, am I the only one that is interested in what happened to Ruth. I’m just calling you out of courtesy really to say that the story has developed further They’ve accepted that she’s gone missing and that’s it. I find that hard to believe. I really do. I’m in the process of now working to tell the story. Obviously it’s important you should know that this is happening Bye-bye Looking at the circumstances of the case I now don’t believe that Ruth Wilson is alive. I will tell you what my theory is There is somebody from the community responsible for that wee girl go missing It looks to me that she met someone and something happened The end game is if nothing else to make this fellow sweat Don’t go to sleep with a clear conscience because there’d be more people like me out there That will take an interest in this case. It’s as simple as that William was Ruth’s ex-boyfriend It appears they used to hang out quite a lot He should know quite a lot about Ruth She was a very studious girl. Well-mannered. Rather traditional She was not cool? She was not cool. Her dress sense was unconventional as well. I think, umm, you know perhaps she didn’t really have that maternal relationship to know how to Bring herself out of a shell as a young woman that suppose a young girl I picked up over the years that Ruth real mother had died in rather tragic circumstances She had fallen down the stairs What do you think when you think about Ruth, and what do you think happened? I had that suspicion that for some wild that there was somebody else involved I feel some what lost and a little bit numb about it really and I think my mind was shut off any of the emotional attachment to it It didn’t really have a desperately Sad effect on him. He didn’t feel that he’d been hugely affected by it It did make me think of that point well So who was looking out for Ruth then? Are you sitting comfortably? I’m piercing a rhyme, but there you go.
Crack on So I’ve just received an email this morning from the detective team’s superintendent He is the person who lead the review into Ruth’s disappearance a couple of years ago He is our man. He’s happy to talk That’s marvelous. Yep. Great Nobody here is trying to undermine what the police have actually done We’ve got a theory. We need some insight from the police from that investigation to see if that theory holds water There really do have to be people out there that remember Ruth. Care about Ruth. Are thinking about her I’d like to talk to some people in the village Martin’s in a brilliant position as a reporter to open doors and speak to witnesses Something I could have done years ago when I was in the police force. But of course, I’ve retired. I come to that now Hello, Martin. It’s Ian Wilson I’ve made the final decision that I don’t wish to Participate in this particular project. I know that you will do a good job And your part is going to be very professional like you’ve always been in the past But it’s a complicated one and I made this final decision and you could tell by my voice is quite an emotional one We’ve been talking to some people in the village. They loath to talk without the say-so of Ian Wilson I did call the Tower Master. He wasn’t surprised that people weren’t talking because People were suspicious of journalists in Betchworth apparently Ruth has vanished in more ways than one She vanished on Box Hill that day and this has been largely a forgotten story I’ve spoken to the Surrey police They’ve pulled back. They are worried that what we are doing is going to be critical of them They’re worried that we’re looking back at the original investigation. And we’re going to say that there are flaws in it It’s a little bit disappointing. We’re simply gonna have to go down a different route In 1968, a school boy went missing Yes And his body three days later was found between Leatherhead and Dorking and I used to run quite a few features about it in the paper and Every time someone would come forward Yeah someone would read it, who perhaps hadn’t been inclined to give information before. Your local newspaper is the most useful tool for getting information out there So I felt that it was important for us to make our own appeal I think it encourage the police to re-open the case And it lead to the conviction of the 33 years of Brian Lunn Field Do you think there might be a chance of that in this case? It could be that there is someone there that just needs that little push and that the publicity could lead to come vital information which ultimately, of course, could lead to the solving of the case It was just kind of filtered through at school the next day that you know Ruth’s disappeared or Ruth’s run away It had always been my view really that the friends provided the key to Ruth I’ve been communicating for a while with Roxie. Roxie is the person who had gone public in 2010 making an appeal And it was kind of not a joke but kind of the reaction was very much Oh she’ll turn up at the dinner dance that was in a couple. Oh she’ll appear and she’ll just run away for the day She was very happy to raise further awareness of what happened to her friend The first positive kind we’re going to get of what Ruth was like. It’s gonna open it right up for us. I believe We’re a nice group of girls. We were. We, we certainly weren’t the cool girls. No. Ruth’s interests were reading, music. I went out on a whole day bike ride with her around the village of Betchworth and Brockham You used to get kind of bullied and pushed about a bit by the cool kids And you know, get excluded from some things I suppose maybe because of that. Yep, we just I suppose migrated towards each other didn’t we At 16 you think you know it all, but you look back in hindsight. She couldn’t thrive as far as I’m aware she didn’t have a passport. She didn’t have a massive wage that she could have stockpiled money and disappeared on So you have to ask yourself the question that where could she have disappeared to for 22 years And I’d also like to think that if she was still alive There’s been numerous appeals over the years that have said at the bottom of them You know just getting contact the missing persons charity And we can pass the message on just let let us know in some way that you’re safe I would like to think that she would have done that If someone can come forward with new information that we’ve been looking for the past 22 years Even if it didn’t seem like anything at the time Yeah, just get talking about it. Yeah, yep Thinking about the day she left. Do you think this was a spur-of-the-moment thing? Was this something She’d been planning. What’s your, what’s your thinking now? My belief is that she had planned to do something quite what, quite what I Don’t know, but I believe that she had intended to be away from home Umm. I don’t know whether that was to be permanent, temporary I’d also like to believe that someone knows what’s happened Yes And because obviously the last confirmed sighting was up here. Beyond that we don’t know We don’t know but I do believe that she did intend to go missing Now what we have is this picture of her as someone who’s been planning this disappearance. Why would she do this? Our hope is that by seeing an article in the local newspaper, people will talk to each other remember the case remember the disappearance This is the chance to bring roots back to life before she’s forgotten forever There are a lot of comments. It’s a local case that clearly people remember. I mean you would, wouldn’t you? It seems to me that this is something that has puzzled people over the years It’s just maybe they just haven’t had the means to express their concern. I did receive an email from someone who remembered her Yeah, she she’s a new witness. I think and I don’t think she’s ever told the police so Hi Liam, it’s Martin here. How you doing? I had a very long conversation with Catherine. She was another friend of Ruth’s Okay, yes One of the things that brought them together was going through similar troubles Oh, alright In fact, umm In fact Catherine run away from home at the same time Oh really? Okay It just confirms that this wasn’t some sort of mysterious disappearance of a girl who was otherwise happy As far as we’re concerned. She’s got this very happy middle-class life This was a deeply unhappy girl who was talking to her friends about leaving What was really going on behind closed doors. What was really going through her head during those days Ruth and I, I guess we bonded because there was quite a lot going on for both of us at that time Yeah, and we gone really well. We were really really close She got me some earrings and a ring, but I still have the ring which I’m wearing now Ruth was really troubled some of the reason that she was maybe You know, unpopular as well as that she She had so much going on in her head that she was just desperately trying to find out who she was She knew that I was going to be moving So she asked me she said if it all works out for you in Sheffield Can I come and join you? I was trying to get myself sorted so didn’t really have enough time to help her as well Once you’d gone. Did you hear from Ruth again? No, it was obviously a time without mobile phone, so yeah So I was ringing my parents two or three times a week. They told me that Ruth had gone missing Shortly after I’d gone And, and why did your mum think about it? Written down. Ruth was went missing 4:30pm It was the 27th You had your sleepover, I remember, on the 11th of November. It was just after that. But Ruth came to stay with us again And she she didn’t want to go home And I was very very unhappy and uncomfortable about it. Can you remember why she said she didn’t want to go home? No, she didn’t say why. She just really didn’t. As a mother, at that time, it it it disturbed me greatly Why do you think she was so desperate? I think her whole childhood is based on a foundation of secrecy and lies She knew that her real mother was dead She told me Yeah how her mum had died Right She knew her mom had fallen down the stairs Yep But but something obviously didn’t add up for her Yes So she pursued it and looked for the truth Right and found it Yeah It’s a bit of a shock aye? I can’t imagine anything more shocking Yeah So we found the death certificate. What did you find in it? What did it say in it? I’ll show you You see And here, yeah She told me that she found out her real mum had committed suicide Yeah Was still trying to kind of work all this out We know the circumstances of the day up until the point that she went missing What’s your reading of what happened? I think she had every intention of killing herself Why do you think that? Why, why do you… Because one other way you could look at it is that? She was planning to meet someone up on Box Hill. Why do you think it was… Had she talked about suicide? She hadn’t up to that, yes, she haven’t spoken about it. She’d spoken about Running away and… well not running away, but you know going somewhere else But I don’t think there was anywhere for her to go I think she was really distressed that day that was the day it all kind of unraveled and fell apart But as we know, you know, the police have been looking everybody was looking. No body was found When I read about her disappearance and That she’d been to the florist and ordered these flowers. I just know that it’s Ruth Almost like dark, practical joke Yeah that she was playing on her stepmother Yeah, stick two fingers up kind of thing. Yeah Right? And this is what I’m planning, and I’m doing it and There’s a stubbornness about her Well do you remember her discovering that her mother had actually committed suicide? That didn’t get disclosed to me The words that were used when being with her were she had fallen down the stairs and broken her neck It was only a matter of time before she found out the truth Ian Wilson has issued a statement Until this point the Wilson family was not cooperating in any way But they clearly felt they needed to respond to what we had discovered Reacting to the idea that her whole childhood was built on secrecy and lies.Ian Wilson says this “Her family are extremely hurt by this statement, and do not recognize this view of Ruth’s childhood Ruth always knew about her biological mother’s death, but not the exact cause Sadly we now know that before her disappearance Ruth had discovered the tragic circumstances of her mother’s death but equally sadly she chose not to discuss or question this with any family members I mean she is lost and she was lost We know the intention was there to disappear or go somewhere but the mystery is What happened next? Perhaps one of the reasons that I’ve been drawn to the case of Ruth Is that it reminds me of my own sister. What she went through When she was 16, she ran away from home She in fact came and lived with me at the time when I was at university. Does strike me that Ruth Didn’t have that equivalent figure in her life. She had no one obvious to run to I was under the impression that Ruth was happy at home and more or less liked her life. That she had no reason to run away Everything’s the opposite to what I thought And we’ve only find that out from speaking to her friends There’s absolutely no doubt we never have revisited this case had it not been for Liam’s interest Liam not wanting to let this lie. I know he’s found it difficult at times and frustrating till we know Whether she went up to Box Hill to commit suicide, whether she went up to Box Hill to meet someone, whether she was abducted Whether she was murdered, whether she went off to find a new life with a new identity Until we know it’s very difficult to let this rest What made her go up on that hill on that day? What was going through her mind at that time? What strikes me is this lack of curiosity? Some elements of this is to do with professional pride This was a particular Hall trait that I was helping create of a essentially happy family that had lost their daughter Inexplicably so I was implicated in the process of furthering that particular narrative which was inaccurate and that that doesn’t annoy me. I mean, that’s that’s That’s something that I feel Shouldn’t have happened Liam’s had a long career as a police officer and Something has really irritated him about about the way that he believes this young girl who went missing was not being taken seriously I have been struck by Liam’s commitment and relieve also that he deserves some sort of closure now too I think it’s likely she was meeting someone. Yeah, I think she was dressed to jump into another car Disappeared but still alive new identity. Very difficult very difficult It’s my belief that secrecy can cause real damage People keep secrets for all sorts of reasons. From shame to protecting loved ones, but very often They have a corrosive effect eating away at trust. Whether it’s in a family, a community, or society itself Discovering the secret of her mother’s suicide appears to have had a devastating effect on Ruth Wilson The police are being very tight-lipped and Betchworth continues to keep its secrets Liam and I have tried after all this time to shed more light on Ruth short life We’ve been helped above all by the friends who have refused to accept that a Surrey school girl can simply vanish off the face of the earth Someone out there knows what happened to Ruth, and the thing about secrets is that they have a tendency to come out in the end