TV probe for grandmother still missing after two months

IT'S eight weeks since pensioner Joyce Wells went missing.

That's two nightmare months for her daughters who endure day after day wondering where their 74-year-old mother could be and what has happened to her.

Now Carole Crathern and Nicky Gumbrell are to appear on BBC television programme Missing Live which they hope will take their search countrywide.

Joyce lived in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, for more than 40 years before moving to Bexhill.

She was reported missing from her home in Pebsham Lane on Saturday, November 22 having agreed to babysit for Carole's children that evening and due to visit Nicky the next day.

Sussex Police launched an immediate search through woods, fields, rivers and buildings from Pebsham as far as Crowhurst, and ran a poster campaign throughout the local area.

The operation continues but in a very different form to the hunt across open countryside which characterised the early stages as Detective Inspector Owen Poplett, head of Rother CID, explained.

The emphasis is now on intelligence-gathering and included checking telephone calls made from and received by Joyce at home to establish who she was in contact with.

A geographic profiling process has also been used to establish where she would have been most likely to have gone.

The Missing Live crew spent a day filming at Carole's home in Warwick Road, Bexhill, as well as visiting Joyce's house to build up a picture of her life.

The series features four different cases during each programme - some current and others from the past. The programme will be broadcast in March and goes out on weekday mornings.

It is presented by Louise Minchin and Rav Wilding who interviewed the sisters, and also Viv Barlow, who is Joyce's sister-in-law.

Joyce's husband Bill worked with Hastings Police for more than 30 years - he passed away in April 2002.

Carole said: "They asked us if we thought there was anyone else who would consider doing the filming. Mum was very close to Auntie Viv so we thought she would be a good one.

Carole said: "It was quite tiring - they arrived around 10.15 and were with us until quarter to five. It was a long time. Then they spent time with the actual police next day.

"It was the police who suggested we consider doing this and because there was nothing else happening, no other leads, it seemed we could not really turn it down. And we did hear of one incident where one lady with amnesia managed to get to another part of the country and actually saw herself on the programme.

"I don't know if anything will come of it - but anything is worth a try."

Nicky described the day's filming as "very draining - I felt absolutely exhausted."

She has been searching for Joyce herself - setting off on walks over Christmas with her husband in the hope of finding some trace of their mother.

"We were raised to walk as children, when we had a dog. That first weekend we looked - we went for a long walk around Pebsham.

"Since then I have been out a number of times with my husband and walked all over there, from Worsham Farm and around Pebsham Farm. It felt so desperate doing that."

They have continued normal daily life as best they can and are coping with the practicalities of visiting the house, answering mail, paying bills and Nicky also cared for the much-treasured pet left alone in the house when Joyce disappeared - sadly the cat had to be put down over Christmas following liver failure.

Carole said: "We have been opening all the car insurance stuff, all the forms. And it was strange because there were some Christmas cards where people hadn't known what had happened - some people who didn't know, distant relatives and so on. There were six or seven of those."

Both sisters have family of their own - Nicky has three children while Carole has two - and grandma has been sorely missed.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, January 20) they faced the ordeal of a birthday celebration without Joyce there - Nicky's daughter was 17 and this week facing exams at college as well.

Carole said: "It is going to be awful because every birthday Mum would be round."