Victim's mother keeps a tragic vigil

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The Independent Online
Lavinia Tildesley has waited eight years for her son to return.

She has kept his bedroom exactly as it was the day he vanished, with his favourite toys and books in place.

Mark Tildesley was seven when he disappeared on 1 June 1984. Mother and son had been out shopping. He was tucking into crisps and lemonade as his mother prepared to go to work, cleaning at a police station. 'Bye- bye mummy. I'll see you when you get back from work,' he said.

That evening Mark went to a fairground near the family home in Rose Court, Wokingham, Berkshire. When John and Lavinia Tildesley went to pick him up at about 7pm, all they found was his bright yellow chopper bicycle chained to a gate. They have blamed themselves ever since. 'You just can't help thinking it is your fault for letting him out alone,' Mrs Tildesley was to say in interviews in the years after his disappearance. Her experience has been every parent's nightmare. But she remained convinced that Mark was still alive and would come home.

'I think about him all the time. I look for him everywhere, even when we go abroad on holiday,' she said once.

'I believe he is still alive. I always have and I always will till such time as they say he is not.'

Even when police broke the news that Mark was dead and that Leslie Bailey, 39, a paedophile serving a life sentence for killing a six-year-old boy after a homosexual orgy, had been charged, Mr and Mrs Tildesley still found it hard to accept his death.

Detective Superintendent Mick Short, of Thames Valley Police, said: 'Unless we find that body I doubt Mrs Tildesley will ever come to terms with what has happened.'

(Photograph omitted)