A missing young mother and the caring husband who denies killing her

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MITCHELL QUY spent the morning getting his three year old step- daughter, Robyn, ready for a school outing and playing in the garden with his one-year-old son Jack. The happy scene at the neat two bedroom home on the outskirts of the Merseyside seaside resort of Southport, seemed perfectly normal. A single dad having fun bringing up his kids.

But Mr Quy's situation is anything but normal. The policethink the 24-year-old former croupier is the most likely person to have murdered his 21-year-old wife and the mother of the two children just before Christmas and hidden her body.

Detectives have searched at the couple's home on three occasions - the last time bringing with them an X-ray machine similar to the one being used to look for missing IRA victims in Ireland. Despite electronically scanning the floorboards and back garden, no body has emerged.

For the past four months Lynsey's parents, brothers and sister have spent most evenings probing the countryside and waterways around Southport in search of a corpse.

Mr Quy is, not surprisingly, outraged and believes he is being victimised. He insists his wife has run off and abandoned him and the children.

Despite his assertion that he has seen his wife in Southport shopping and twice in the passenger seat of a black Mercedes, along with his discovery of an anonymous note claiming Mrs Quy has run off to Spain with a married man, the police say she has been murdered. They say they are 99.9 per cent certain she is dead and her body is lying buried - most likely in a field or lake.

Lynsey and Mitchell had a tempestuous relationship almost from the moment they married, following a whirlwind courtship of five weeks. He was 19. She was 16 and pregnant from a previous relationship. Their rows were frequent and on one occasion Mitchell trashed their rented flat, smashing every item and hurling the television through the window.

They split up in 1997 and charges were brought against Mr Quy, who moved to Southport from Essex as a boy, of incitement to cause his wife grievous bodily harm and incitement to cause criminal damage. But these were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Lynseywho had spent all her life in the Merseyside town, eventually sought help from a women's group. She set up home with her children at the house from which she later disappeared.

Last October the couple got back together, but Lynsey seemed to regret it immediately and arranged to see a solicitor to finalise divorce proceedings.

But the former barmaid never made it to the appointment on 15 December. She was last seen by anyone other than her husband the day before.

According to Mr Quy she left at about 2pm on Christmas Day after a night out with friends without saying goodbye to her children - who she clearly loved - taking just a suitcase of clothes.

Her disappearance was not reported until 5 February, when prompted by a concerned social worker the police went to visit the couple. Mr Quy told them they had planned to split up after Christmas but that "she upped and left before me".

The police announced earlier this month that Lynsey's disappearance was being treated as murder. There were no records of any withdrawals of money. Relatives and friends said she would never leave her children. Stories of her foreign trips were also dismissed. She had never been further than Blackpool on holiday and did not own a passport.

Detective Superintendent Geoff Sloan, of the Merseyside Police, who is heading the inquiry, said: "She could walk in tomorrow, but I'm 99.9 per cent sure she is dead."

He added: "Mr Quy is a valid suspect. He is the person who had the last sighting and the opportunity and motive. She was going to go ahead with the divorce proceedings and that would have been a valid reason to kill her."

Det Supt Sloan said the breakthrough they are waiting for is the discovery of the body. Some clothes found on waste ground which could have belonged to Lynsey are being examined by forensic scientists.

Mr Quy, however, speaking in his back garden believes the police are wasting their time. "I think they have hit a dead end. All they want to do is put pressure on me. At first it did really get me down, but I have got nothing to hide."

He admitted that their relationship had become a "nightmare". "There was never any trust - we got married too soon," he said. But he denied any foul play. "People don't just disappear. I didn't expect her to leave the kids, I thought she was going to take a couple of weeks on her own and then come back."

Meanwhile Lynsey's parents, Linda and Peter Wilson, have bought a minibus and spend their spare time searching for a body. They even sought the help of the spoon bending psychic, Uri Geller, who after studying clothes belonging to Lynsey predicted that her body would be found near water.

Mrs Wilson recalls the attractive, "bubbly", and "big hearted" daughter, who was particularly close to her dad. A person who could storm off in a rage and would not be seen for weeks, but would then walk miles to deliver you a birthday present. "It's hard to think that your daughter has been murdered," she said.

"It took some time before I was convinced, but her father knew immediately she was dead. I want to find my daughter to lay her to rest and I want the person responsible to be caught."