While there have been dozens of unconfirmed sightings of the Manic Street Preachers guitarist and songwriter, the parents of Richey Edwards have been granted a court order that will legally declare their son to be presumed dead.
First reported on Friday and later confirmed by numerous UK outlets, the move is said to be "hugely emotional" for the other three band members -- James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore -- who still dedicate songs to Edwards hoping he might one day return. Described as a tortured genius, it is widely believed that Edwards, 27, took his life by jumping from the Severn Bridge although no body has ever been found.
Edwards was last seen at 7am on February 1, 1995, in London's Embassy Hotel as he prepared to fly to America for a tour. After driving to his flat in Cardiff, where he left his passport, credit card and Prozac pills, he headed for the service station next to the old Severn Bridge. His car was found there 17 days later.
Because no body was discovered conspiracy theories soon began to circulate. In 1997, a college lecturer claimed to have seen Edwards getting on a bus in the hippie resort of Goa, India. The following year, a barmaid in the Canary Islands told a newspaper how one customer had run for the door after being told: "You're Richey from the Manic Street Preachers."
While the band has recently been quoted as saying "things just don't add up" and even maintain an account in his name to receive a quarter-share of his song royalties, the Manics long-time friend and publicist Terri Hall told The Mail on Sunday they supported the family's decision.
"The band has been aware this was coming," she said. "It is hugely emotional for all of us. This is the parents' choice and the band is happy to go with what the parents decide is best. We all dream Richey will come back one day. You hope he is still around somewhere. But it is no longer a realistic hope and if this offers some kind of closure then the band will be content with that."
Staunch Methodists from Blackwood, Gwent, Edwards' parents were entitled to begin presumption of death proceedings in 2002 -- the minimum seven-year period required before a missing person can legally be declared dead, but they refused, hoping that their son's apparent suicide was a ruse to reinvent himself away from the pressures of the music business.