It's easy to disappear in Goa's hippy haunts

If missing rock star Richey Edwards is in India, he could live anonymously for years, reports Jan McGirk

India can cast a peculiar spell on visitors, and every year thousands arrive in search of their inner selves. Others, however, desire to lose themselves in the sub-continent.

When a Welsh tourist thought he spied Richey Edwards, the missing Manic Street Preachers lyricist, in a scruffy beach market in Goa last November, he did not mention it for four months. He imagined the depressive rock star might have opted for oblivion under the coconut palms instead of drowning himself in the Severn two years ago, as was widely feared.

Vyvyan Morris, 48, a lecturer in media studies at Neath College in South Wales, learnt that the long-haired man with familiar features had been in Goa for 18 months. But he did not approach the lean figure, known as Rick to the old hippies in the area, and now regrets that his belated report of this casual sighting caused "palaver and stress" after the guitarist "had worked so hard to gain this anonymity".

Goa, though one of India's smallest states, has 1.3 million inhabitants. Weekly charters bring in jumbo-jets filled with Western tourists, and hundreds more drift in by train, bus or ferry. Denizens of Anjuna, where Richey Edwards may have surfaced, are described in the Lonely Planet guide as "seers, searchers, and peripatetic expats". Reporters from the tabloids tried all week to pick up Edwards's trail amid the fluorescent- painted palm trees and moonlit beach raves of this hedonistic hide-out. Pallid, jet-lagged and frantic about deadlines, they had difficulty infiltrating the backpack brigade - one was shunned as a suspected narcotics officer. Local police and diplomats rate their chances of success as dismal, unless this missing person suddenly wants to be found.

"It's very common to disappear here," said a British diplomat. "India is a huge place, and it is so easy to get alternative documentation."

On average, five British citizens go missing in India each year, but the High Commission in New Delhi fields phone calls from worried parents of many others who neglect to keep in touch. Any pertinent information is passed on to the police. Two years ago, British backpackers taken hostage for a month in New Delhi were not even missed by their families, who did not expect regular contact.

In many of India's spiritual retreats - along holy rivers, in remote Himalayan valleys, or in teeming cities - foreigners are often encouraged to take a new name and cast aside all earthly concerns before they enter an ashram. Others keep moving in a drugged haze to the next cheap travellers' haunt. Their seasonal migration route goes up to Manali, in the mountains, whenever the beaches of Goa, Diu, or Kerala get unbearably hot, with forays to Pushkar Fair in the Rajasthan desert or the startling ruined cities of south India.

"We have had cases where people walk in after six years on the road," said a consular officer in Calcutta. "All their documentation has expired while they dropped out, and we have to advise them how to regularise their status. It is slightly better now that the Indian airport immigration is computerised. But people do vanish."

Edwards, who left his passport and credit cards in his Cardiff flat after fleeing from his London hotel just before a 1995 US tour, would now be 30 years old. Neither Scotland Yard nor Interpol has officially notified the British embassy in New Delhi with his description.

Inspector General Ranjan Brar, the Goan police chief, said he had seen a circular last month about a missing British man, but did not recall the name. Without a colour photograph, there was too little to go on. Told that Edwards had been anorexic and could be recognised by scars down his left arm, caused by frequent self-mutilation, and by his distinctive high cheekbones, the beleaguered police chief sighed. "There are all sorts here. Who's to say that this man has not long since moved on? "

It is unlikely that Edwards, even if travelling on a false passport, would hurry on to islands in Thailand, as many Goa regulars do. Fans of the Manic Street Preachers are numerous in Bangkok, where it is the number one group. In India, however, celebrities often go unrecognised. Film stars Goldie Hawn and Demi Moore have walked around Bombay undetected, and the Duchess of York managed to see the guru Sai Baba outside Bangalore without being spotted.

Richey Edwards's fellow band member, Nick Wire, is quoted on the Internet as saying: "Wherever Richey is, he's made his own choice and he's doing what he wants. Unless he's gone insane. Maybe he'll disappear for five years and come back with the greatest book ever written, a huge beard, and be really happy."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone