What happened to Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers?

1 February 2020, 17:26 | Updated: 1 February 2020, 17:31

Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers in March 1992
Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers in March 1992. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

25 years since the Manic Street Preachers guitarist was last seen, Radio X takes a look at the circumstances behind his disappearance.

A new appeal has been launched concerning Richey Edwards, the former member of Manic Street Preachers, who was last seen 25 years ago.

On 1 February 1995, the musician, who played guitar and wrote lyrics for the Welsh indie band, was spotted at the Embassy Hotel in London. He was supposed to be flying to the USA that day with bandmate James Dean Bradfield for a promotional tour. Instead, he drove back to his home in Cardiff, dropped off his passport and credit cards and hasn't been seen since.

Manic Street Preachers in 1990
Manic Street Preachers in 1990. Picture: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

On the 25th anniversary of his disappearance, the charity Missing People has issued a new appeal to the musician, who struggled with depression, anorexia and other issues. The charity's Kate Graham said: "Richard, if you are reading this, please call or text us on our free phone number, 116 000.

"It’s confidential and we can’t trace your call. We just want to provide you with the support you need and help you to be safe. The helpline is here to support people who are missing or thinking of going missing and their loved ones who are left behind.”

The last known picture of missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards, January 1995
The last known picture of missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards, January 1995. Picture: National Missing Persons Helpline/PA

Although Bradfield claims he was the last person to officially see Edwards, the book Withdrawn Traces states that a woman called "Vivian" visited Richey in his London hotel room. Richey's sister Rachel told WalesOnline: “Apparently the night before Richey was trying to give Vivian his passport saying ‘I won’t be needing this anymore’.”

A cab driver says he picked up the musician on 7 February and drove him around locations in South Wales, including Edwards' home town of Blackwood.

Richey Edwards performing live onstage in 1994
Richey Edwards performing live onstage in 1994. Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

Edwards' car was found abandoned by the Severn Bridge two weeks after he was last seen. A car park attendant noted that he'd first seen the vehicle in the location on Valentine's Day.

Given his history mental health issues and self-harm - particularly the incident in 1991 when he carved the phrase "4REAL" into his forearm to prove a point to NME journalist Steve Lamacq - it was assumed that Edwards had taken his own life. The Severn Bridge was a notorious "suicide spot", but the musician's family claimed he wasn't the type of person to kill himself.

Edwards was declared legally dead in November 2008, but his sister Rachel maintains that the case isn't as straightforward as it seems. In 2018, she revealed new evidence that claimed the time everyone thought Richey had crossed the Severn Bridge had been wrong.

The 2019 book Withdrawn Traces by Sara Hawys Roberts and Leon Noakes was written with the co-operation of Richey's sister Rachel posits some new evidence, including the theory that the musician had undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome, which could account for a desire to cut off from friends and family and avoid confrontation.

Another lead concerns a woman Edwards was supposed to have met when he was in hospital, who later moved to Israel. When having his hair cut in Cardiff, Noakes was told bluntly by the hairdresser: "He's living in a kibbutz in Israel, everybody knows."

This offers a link to some of the stories that have emerged in the past 25 years: that Edwards was spotted in Goa, India... or Lanzarote.

At the time, Manic Street Preachers were enjoying success with their third album The Holy Bible. Author Roberts says: “He had just broken up with his girlfriend, the band wasn’t going in the direction he wanted it to, he wasn’t getting on with them. They were moving apart.

“He didn’t really have anything else outside the band and he had given it his everything. I think he might have felt that he was a failure. So rather than live on in obscurity having failed he removed himself from the situation.”

After Richey's disappearance, the remaining three members - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore - reconvened to record Everything Must Go. They scored a number 2 hit with A Design For Life, their first post-Richey single. The Manics have released ten studio albums without Edwards, although 2009's Journal For Plague Lovers featured lyrics penned by Richey.

For more on the Missing People charity, see www.missingpeople.org.uk.

Manic Street Preachers in 2019
Manic Street Preachers in 2019. Picture: Press/Alex Lake

HEADS TOGETHER

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Heads Together wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.

One of their partners is the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male. CALM offers support to men in the UK, of any age, who are down or in crisis via our helpline, webchat and website.

www.thecalmzone.net