'When I said to the moon and back, I meant it'- Wife of missing Derbyshire man Joshua Jones shares their heartbreaking love story as she marks 10 weeks since he vanished
Every missing person has a backstory- in the case of Joshua Jones from Matlock, it’s a love story.
Not so long ago the now 29-year-old placed a 50p coin on a pool table at a Matlock pub and declared to a group of friends: “I’ll play the winner”.
The winner turned out to be the close friend of a fellow reveller named Talia, the pair got chatting, ‘as you do’- and the rest is history.
Months later he had moved himself in to the home Talia shared with her two daughters (‘they adored him and still do’), asking for a drawer where he could keep his clothes but then never going home.
He proposed at the same table where they’d spent their first date bonding over books, particularly George Orwell’s 1984, a shared favourite.
The happy two sat cross-legged, folding 1,000 origami paper cranes for their wedding day in 2017.
All Josh had ever wanted was a family, but when Talia told him she didn’t think she could have any more children, he told he accepted her ‘no matter what’- they later welcomed a son, Luke.
The couples’ pledge to each other, ‘to the moon and the back’, is tattooed on Josh’s left wrist in his wife’s handwriting and etched on a slate at their bedside.
These things are often neglected in missing person’s appeals. But they’re what Talia is focussing on as she marks 10 weeks since her husband disappeared.
They’re what, she hopes, will finally bring him home. “I know in my gut he is out there and that he is alive,” she said. “I’m in a dark place, but still so full of hope.”
On Saturday, December 12, Talia watched Josh put his coat on, kiss Luke goodbye, and ‘that was it’.
Leaving their home in Hurst Rise, he had set out to pick up some things from the local pharmacy, but never made it.
He was captured on CCTV in Sainsbury’s at 12.19pm, having been in Boyes at around noon. And then, just like that, he vanished.
The search was on. And Derbyshire Police, says Talia, ‘couldn’t have done more’.
"They had everyone out,” she said. “The taskforce, drones, a helicopter, mountain rescue teams. They went above and beyond, I have no doubt about that.”
Alas, the initial search and those that followed have proven unfruitful.
"I’m not surprised,” said Talia. “We only have CCTV in central Matlock. If he’d made his way towards Darley Dale, there’d be no way of spotting him. We all know Derbyshire is mostly fields.”
The public rallied round in their droves to help, raising a reward for information that leads to finding Josh of over £1,000.
A designated Facebook group has nearly 5,000 members busy distributing appeals and posters across the country.
But this inevitably comes with endless well-meaning but false sightings that can send Talia spiralling again and again.
"I get floods of messages on my phone,” she said. “I do appreciate people are trying to help but it’s hard when he pops up in Blackpool one minute and somewhere else miles away the next.
“Any sightings should be reported to the police. I’ve typed the police reference number in response so many times that it’s automatic, I don’t have to think about it.
"I’ve actually attended a few sightings myself, I ended up approaching one man who looked like Josh. He turned around and I could see straight away it wasn’t him.
"I cried in the car going home. The sightings are all-consuming, but a good thing. People are doing their best. It’s bound to happen. I mean, how many tall, slim, bearded guys are there walking around?”
But what prompts a tall, slim, bearded guy to disappear off the face of the Earth- especially a young man like Josh, with seemingly everything he wanted and everything going for him?
Talia can’t know for sure, but says the couple were going through a stressful time in the lead up to Christmas.
Josh also suffered with some anxiety but put off seeing a GP, telling Talia ‘it’ll be fine’.
But what really leaps out are the couple’s dreams of one day going off-grid.
“We used to talk about it all the time,” said Talia. “Just packing this life in and going and building a treehouse somewhere.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, he complained of feeling trapped by lockdown, ‘like a hamster in a wheel’.
"Josh was well equipped with survival skills and even took his Swiss army knife from his car.
"I know there have been instances where people have gone missing and been found living off-grid. And I need Josh to know that if that’s what’s happened here, it’s ok.
"He’s a very intelligent man. We joke that we consult Josh before we consult Google.”
I know that as a journalist I’m supposed to be on the outside looking in, but I can’t help but get involved by asking- how is Talia not seething, as I would be, or anyone surely?
I haven’t detected a hint of this in our conversation. Where is her anger?
"There is none,” she tells me gently. “I know that people are expecting me to be angry and are very frustrated on my behalf.
"But if Josh walked through the front door right now, there’d be no questions asked. I just want to know that he’s safe."
For now, Talia is stuck in limbo. Her ‘very up and down’ days are spent looking after her children, who have all been left reeling by Josh’s disappearance.
In the beginning, Talia sent daily texts. But Josh’s phone has long since been switched off and no longer accepts them, so she now sends a daily email.
"It brings me some comfort to know I can keep him updated with what’s going on,” she said. “Maybe he reads them, I don’t know.
"Sometimes I struggle to function but I have to keep going not only for my children but for Josh. I want to be in a good mindset for when he comes back.
"Our little boy, who's two now, still points to his photo and asks for him every day. He cries out for his dad at night.
“We just want him home. I’ll never ask for anything else in my life. When I said to the moon and back, I meant it.”
Joshua left his home in Hurst Rise at 11.30am on Saturday, December 12. He was wearing a pair of blue jeans that day, together with a grey Superdry coat which is darker on the body with lighter grey sleeves. The coat has a hood that is bright green on the inside.
A sleeve Japanese theme tattoo on his right arm includes a koi carp on his forearm, a dragon and a crane at the top of his arm. He has a tattoo on his left wrist of ‘to the moon and back’ in his wife’s handwriting wrapped around the top. He also has a moon with a red rocket and rune letters on the inside of the same wrist.
He is described as 6ft tall and of slim build, with blue eyes and brown hair with a grade four cut and a grade three cut beard and moustance at the time of his disappearance.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire Police said: “We are grateful to everyone who has contacted us about Joshua in the last month and we would urge anyone with information, no matter how small, to contact the force using any of the below methods, quoting reference 518 of December 12.
Phone – call us on 101.
Facebook– send us a private message to /DerbyshireConstabulary
Twitter– direct message our contact centre on @DerPolContact
Website– complete the online contact form derbyshire.police.uk/Contact-Us.”
You can visit the Find Josh Jones Facebook page for more information here.
In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.