one South Yorkshire couple know more than most the trauma of having a child run away from home – and they still don’t know why after five-and-a-half years.
Andrew Gosden was only 14 when he skipped school in Doncaster and caught a train to London in September 2007, never to be heard from again.
His parents, Kevin and Glenys Gosden, who live in Balby, Doncaster, are still completely baffled by his disappearance because he was from a stable background with no known problems at home or school.
Kevin has been so badly affected by the situation in which they found themselves that he has suffered from depression and attempted suicide and resigned from his job.
He described the increase in young people going missing in South Yorkshire as ‘extremely alarming’.
Kevin said: “The psychological term for what a parent faces is ‘ambiguous grief’ – you cannot go through the process you might if your child was dead and find healing because you have no answer to the biggest question in your life ‘where is my child?’
“I still walk around with a heavy, tight feeling in my guts and my chest, just feeling that all I want is to hug my lad again.
“The impact is just as real on the wider family too, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, everyone suffers.
“I would appeal to every parent or carer to ensure that numbers for Safe@Last and Missing People, the national charity, are stored in your child’s phone.
“I hope they will never need them, but should they have problems they can discuss them in confidence with trained counsellors and that may help to prevent their going missing.
“If they have already gone missing and find themselves in a difficult situation and not know how to return or to manage their problems, they can again receive help from a neutral party who would pass a message home.
“One of our frustrations as a family has been that if something was bothering Andrew we had no opportunity to help him with it and we would have done to the best of our ability.
“But even if he is safe and well somewhere out there, simply to know that alone would be such a relief to us and end years of worry and confusion.”
Anyone who knows Andrew’s whereabouts should contact police on 101 or call Missing People on 116 000.
Safe@Last case studies – names have been changed to protect the identities of children involved:
Ben, 10, Rotherham
Ben and his 11-year-old brother left home after a family argument in December last year. The youngster, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anger issues, had wanted to walk to his aunt’s house. Safe@Last was called in to help and met with Ben and his brother on a weekly basis to talk through the risks he was putting himself at by going missing. The case was closed but the charity referred the family to a support service to help them work through issues which arose during the visits.
Maisie, 13, Sheffield
Maisie was referred to Safe@Last after South Yorkshire Police found her skipping school in June last year. She engaged with the service but failed to show up to school after the summer holidays. The charity found that she had a strained relationship with her parents. She received one-to-one help and education around staying safe and the dangers of going missing. Maisie has moved to live with a grandparent and will start at a new school this month. She has not been reported missing since last October.
Natasha, 15, Doncaster
Feuding with her family caused Natasha to run away from home. Police were called when she went missing overnight. Safe@Last worked to get Natasha in a residential children’s home after finding her mum had an alcohol dependency problem. The teenager has been given emotional support for her family issues and introduced to positive activities such as arts and crafts to turn to when she gets upset. The charity is continuing to work to find Natasha a home with another family member.
Brooke, 15, Rotherham
Brooke was going missing from home for up to three nights at a time and going on drug and alcohol binges when Safe@Last stepped in. In June last year she made allegations of sexual abuse against her step-father and he was arrested. As a result, Brooke’s family are no longer in contact with her. She is in a residential unit and she is being moved to a foster placement. Brooke’s case worker is giving her support in light of the allegations and will continue to do so for as long as is necessary.