Date: 2 Nov 1996
Place: Cowes, Isle of Wight
Damien Nettles disappeared after a night out in Cowes.
He had lived in Woodvale Road in Gurnard.
He was last seen in a fish and chip shop near his home in Cowes. He was caught in CCTV in Yorkies chip shop at 10pm, and then later when he went back at about 11.30pm. He was also later seen in CCTV footage at 12.06am, but the footage was later lost.
Witnesses that had seen him in Yorkies chip shop said that he appeared either intoxicated or on drugs, and it was also heard that he had earlier talked about getting some drugs.
It was later claimed in March 2002 that he might have been killed by a local drug dealer accidently and then hidden in a drugs den and later buried beneath a cycle path in a sail bag. The drug dealer referred to later died from a heroin overdose in September 2002.
The person that made the claim that Damien Nettles had been killed by the drug dealer said that he had initially gone to the police with his story in 1996 but that they had not acted on it.
The police initially said that they thought that Damien Nettles had fallen into the sea, but it was claimed that if he had done then his body would have washed up.
When he vanished, he had been wearing blue jeans and a black fleece but didn't have a bag or any other possessions with him, although he had taken a black camera with him for the party which was never found.
He was 6ft 4in tall.
His father had dropped him off at his friend’s house at about 7.30pm on 2 November 1996, and then with another person went to a small party in East Cowes. He had agreed with his parents that he could stay out until midnight which was about two hours later than his normal time to be home by.
However, his friend said that he thought that Damien Nettles was bored at the party, noting that there were just three couples at the party and that Damien Nettles was there on his own.
His friends said that he thought that Damien Nettles had then wanted to go off to buy some cannabis because his regular drug dealer had been unable to supply him regularly over the summer. The friend said that they left the party together at about 9.15pm and then took the small ferry to go back across to West Cowes, adding that they stopped to buy some cider on the way at Alldays in East Cowes at about 9.30pm.
His friend said that they had then attempted to get into a number of pubs along Cowes High Street to look for Damien Nettles older sister. However, it was noted that Damien Nettles would have known that his sister would not have been on the island at that time and it was thought that although there were witnesses that said they heard him asking for his sister, that he might have just been using it as an excuse to get into the pubs and that he might have been looking for someone else or something else.
Damien Nettles was next seen in the town area at 10pm when he went into the Yorkies chip shop and picked up a salt pot and then put it down.
His friend sad that he then told Damien Nettles that he was cold and wet and persuaded him to go home and they headed off for home and parted at Northwood Park at 10.30pm. The friend said that he then went home and said that he was sure that Damien Nettles had headed up through the park towards his home too.
However, it was found that Damien Nettles had not gone home, which was 20 minutes away, and had instead gone back to Cowes High Street where he was last seen soon after midnight.
He was seen at 11.15pm in the car park of the Harbour Lights pub trying the door handles to a blue Ford Fiesta car which was said to have been out of character and was next seen at a bus stop near to the Co-op store where he got on a bus and spoke to the driver and tried to take his photo and then got off.
He was then seen soon after at 11.59pm by a man who was picking someone up in his car, who said that he looked like a miserable figure as he sat huddled eating chips. He said that he then came towards him, looking drugged and carrying his camera and bumped into his car. He said that Damien Nettles then said to him, 'They are watching us'. The man said that Damien Nettles then wiped rain off of his car window and then walked off towards the Pier View pub on the High Street where he was caught for the last time on CCTV footage before vanishing.
It was noted that it was unusual that he had been seen by people all over the high Street for about three hours and to have then suddenly vanished.
It was noted that he had two probable routes home from Cowes High Street, either through the park or along the seafront.
He was reported missing the next day, Sunday 3 November 1996 at about 3pm.
It was heard that the police had initially assumed that Damien Nettles had fallen into the sea, but after the drug dealers associate came forward in March 2002 and approached Damien Nettles's mother and she went back to the police with the claim, the police reopened their enquires. However, the police said that they could not trust the claims of the drug dealer because he had given inaccurate information and had later changed his story to say that Damien Nettles was instead buried in a wooded copse in Gurnard near another unused cycle path.
After the information about the drug dealer was brought forward in 2002, several arrests were made.
Five men were also later arrested in January 2012.
His disappearance resulted in a lot of other claims regarding what had happened to him including the possibility that he had been killed by a known paedophile, however, when the police investigated that link they found that the man had left the Isle of Wight six months earlier. The police also said that another paedophile admitted murdering him, but said that they later determined that he was lying.
It was also suggested that he had had a fight on a slipway. One of his friends later said that Damien Nettles had been the victim of a sexual attack, but he later denied saying that. It was also claimed that Damien Nettles had been killed when he tried to stop a friend from being abused.
The police operation to find Damien Nettles was called Operation Ridgewood.
His family later moved to Dallas in the United States.