Agoraphobic housebound for 13 years goes missing

Police say woman who was sole carer for her mother had threatened to self-harm
Click to follow
The Independent Online

An agoraphobic woman who has not left her home for more than 13 years has gone missing.

Mandy Bishop, 34, was reported missing by a family friend on Saturday, but it is thought she may have left her home on 22 March.

Detectives fear that Ms Bishop, who was her mother's sole carer, could have taken her own life. Police revealed that she has previously threatened to self-harm and when officers searched the house in Skeldergate, York, they found traces of blood.

Yesterday they conducted a visual search of the River Ouse and today police divers will search the river bed.

Ms Bishop lived with her 66-year-old mother, Valerie, who is terminally ill. It is her mother's poor health which is thought to be responsible for the delay in Ms Bishop being reported as a missing person. It was not until a friend called to check on the pair at their home that police were alerted.

North Yorkshire Police have issued an appeal for information surrounding her whereabouts and released a picture of Ms Bishop in the hope a member of the public may recognise her.

But the unconventional living arrangement, which left both her and her mother virtually housebound, means that the most recent photograph of Ms Bishop was taken 18 years ago when she was 16.

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Taylor, the officer leading the investigation, said: "For Mandy to actually leave the house in the first place is very much out of character. This is more so as she is the sole carer for her mum who is seriously ill with cancer, and she also looks after the family's four dogs.

"Our concern for Mandy's safety is increasing day by day, particularly as she has not been seen by family or friends for almost two weeks now. We are doing everything we can to locate her including searches in the local area and house-to-house inquiries.

"If anyone has information that could assist the search for Mandy or have possibly seen her during the past two weeks, then please contact North Yorkshire Police as a matter of urgency."

Det Ch Insp Taylor said that Ms Bishop's mother was staying with friends and receiving support from a police family liaison officer.

The officer added that tests were being carried out to determine if the blood belonged to Ms Bishop. She said: "I do know that Mandy has threatened to self-harm in the past, so if the blood is hers then she may be in urgent need of medical attention."

Yesterday neighbours said that they knew little about the family and that Mandy Bishop was rarely seen to leave the house due to her agoraphobia – a fear of open spaces.

Ms Bishop's disappearance comes just over a year after Claudia Lawrence, a university chef, vanished after leaving work in York. Ms Lawrence has not been seen since and the police are treating her disappearance as a murder inquiry.

Last month, on the eve of the anniversary of Ms Lawrence's disappearance, police said they received new information from a witness who said that Ms Lawrence, 35, had been out with a boyfriend on the night before she went missing. Officers have yet to trace the man.