Father's quest for boy who vanished: Paul Abell believes that his son Gary, who went missing after a St Valentine's Day party, was abducted. Richard Smith reports

EVERY day Paul Abell sets out to search for his teenage son whose disappearance after a party has baffled police.

Gary Abell, 17, was last seen waving a yellow golf flagstick in the air as he staggered drunkenly along a lane after a St Valentine's Day party.

He was almost certainly heading for a nearby main road which led to the home of his former girlfriend. But he failed to reach his destination and the trail remains cold almost four weeks after West Mercia police began scouring fields and woodland around Redditch, Hereford and Worcester where he went missing.

Dozens of volunteers joined Gary's family, police and dog handlers on a week-long search. Divers dragged lakes and ponds in the area. Police were again searching yesterday.

Detectives say they are keeping an open mind, but Mr Abell, 48, fears his son's disappearance may be due to something more sinister.

He believes Gary has been abducted and is offering a reward for information leading to his safe return. 'There are just no clues - it's as if Gary has disappeared off the face of the earth,' he said.

'I believe he has been abducted and I'm convinced somebody somewhere knows something. Gary was perfectly happy at home and we had already started looking for a Ford Fiesta to buy him for his 18th birthday in May.

'Now I'm just praying he is still alive. I spend all day looking for him and cover the same ground over and over again.'

Gary lived with his father and stepmother, Ann, at the Lord Clifden pub, in Hockley, Birmingham. He played in the pub darts and dominoes teams and had planned to join regulars taking part in a fishing contest on the river Avon.

The day before he vanished, Gary, a trainee engineer, helped his stepmother prepare for a private party at the pub. At lunchtime he set off in his blue Mini for Redditch where he used to live.

Ironically, a week earlier he and his best friend Stephen Webb, 18, had left a Redditch pub shortly before a man was stabbed to death and they were due to make a statement at the local police station that afternoon.

His parents knew this but they did not know he intended to visit his former girlfriend Vicky Hitch, 17, on the way.

He turned up at her home in Alvechurch with a red rose and a valentine card. 'Gary was his usual self and we played on the computer then had a chat,' she said.

Gary and Stephen made their statements and met Arthur Fisher, 17, for an early evening drink in a Redditch pub. The three went on to a girl's 21st birthday party in Church Hill.

During the night they drank about 10 pints of lager, plus vodka and whisky. Gary and Arthur were involved in a minor scuffle shortly after midnight.

'We did have an argument but I don't even know what it was about,' said Arthur, a YTS hairdresser. He woke at dawn in the town centre and was able to recall little about the party. He has visited a hypnotist in a failed attempt to trigger his memory.

Gary left the party just after 1am and walked one-and-a-half miles across Abbey Park golf course where his cigarette lighter was later found. Three motorists then saw him lurch up Dagnell End Lane at 1.40am carrying the flagstick - a taxi driver had to stop when he saw Gary crawling in the middle of the road.

Police think he was heading for Vicky's home - he had walked there late at night before and slept in a garage or greenhouse.

But even though police later stopped 200 cars in a spot check on the Birmingham Road no one reported seeing Gary there.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Steve Walters, leading the inquiry, said there were three possible scenarios to explain what had happened.

Firstly, Gary could have been in an accident as a result of too much alcohol. 'There is quite a lot of open land in the area and it could well be that in a few months' time when farmers get in their fields we will find a body,' Det Ch Insp Walters said.

'Secondly he could have wanted to go missing. He doesn't seem the sort of lad who wanted to run away but there could be something in his make-up we have not found.

'Thirdly . . . either he was abducted or maybe knocked down by a drunk driver who panicked and disposed of his body.'

Standing 5ft 11ins and with a powerful 13-stone physique Gary was capable of looking after himself.

But Stephen, a welder, who said Gary had no coat or money when he disappeared, believes he was so drunk he would have been easy prey for an abductor. 'Gary is as strong as an ox but we just got absolutely pathetic that night and he couldn't have defended himself.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas