Mystery of man, 21, who disappeared in south London without his keys and wallet remains unsolved 34 years later

According to the charity Missing People, 180,000 people run away or go missing each year in the UK. The majority of cases are usually solved within the first 48 hours, with families swiftly reuniting with their loved ones. In London, it’s estimated that around 36,000 people go missing in the capital, placing the Met Police under enormous strain as they race to find the individuals who have disappeared from their homes.

With local operating rooms receiving over 100 calls a day, and 64 per cent of those involving children, Met Police officers are often under pressure to find a missing person’s whereabouts. In 2020-2021, the London’s primary police force resolved 99.5 per cent of its missing cases, with 72 per cent returning home within the first 24 hours.

However, for some families their anguish continues for years as detectives are unable to uncover any leads or make headway with the case. For the sister of Ian Bushell, she has lost both her parents and her brother, who has not been seen in over three decades after vanishing in South London.

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The Met Police released an e-fit of Ian in 2020 to help the investigation

The 21-year-old had been residing alone in a flat in Thamesmead and was last seen by his dad Wilton on January 20, 1988 before disappearing. Police have since said they believe Ian was upset about something when he was visited by his dad, but it is unclear what was troubling him.

A few weeks later, his dad returned to Ian’s flat on February 16 but no one answered the door. After deciding to let himself in, he discovered that Ian was missing and alerted the police. Despite numerous appeals and searches, the 21-year-old has never been found.

Detectives noted that when his house was searched, all of his possessions, including his wallet, clothes, and keys, had been left inside the property. After this, the trail ran cold and investigating officers failed to discover Ian’s whereabouts despite extensive media appeals by Bexley police.

Since then, there have been two unconfirmed sightings of Ian, the most recent being in north London in 2007, but the new leads mounted to nothing. In a statement ahead of the 25th anniversary of his disappearance, Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes said: “Earlier this year enquiries led my officers to a witness who had re-located to Barbados and told us Ian was seen alive and well in 2007 in Green Street, Upton Park.”

Despite this apparent breakthrough, the trail once again went cold. In February 2020, 32 years after he was first reported missing, the Metropolitan Police issued an e-fit depicting what he would look like at the age of 54.

Both of his parents have tragically passed away without ever discovering what happened to their son, whilst his sibling holds out hope that he remains alive. Following the release of the e-fit, his sister Rosalind appealed for help in tracing Ian. She said: “I was only 16 when my big brother went missing and I have thought of him every day for the last 32 years. My dad passed away two years later in 1989 and my mother in 2010, so now it is just me.

“I have no other siblings and would give anything to have my big brother back home or find out what happened to him.”

In a statement, PC Greg Humphrey, from the South East Missing Person Unit, said: “Ian’s family have not seen him since the late 1980s but time has not lessened their pain and worry. His parents sadly died without finding out what had happened to their son and we are now trying our best to get answers for his sister.

“We know there were two unconfirmed sightings of Ian over ten years ago but since then the trail has gone cold. We are urging anyone who knows where he might be or believes they have seen him at any point over recent years to get in touch with us. Any piece of information, no matter how small, could be the missing piece of the jigsaw we need.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting missing person reference 08MIS005765 or to contact the charity Missing People with the reference 12-002370

Do you have a court case you think we should be following? Email [email protected]

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