Richey Edwards was dreading going to America. Shortly before ringing his mother to tell her of his trepidation, he and James hung back in the underground car park of the Embassy Hotel to listen to some of the demos recorded at The House in the Woods.
‘I said, “Which one’s your favourite?”’ James told Q magazine in 2016. ‘And he said, “The others are OK but Small Black Flowers is the one I really like.” With a shrug of the shoulders, he was a bit ambivalent about the rest.’
The pair checked into adjoining rooms and Richey made his way to room 561. They arranged to meet later and venture out to explore the local cafés, pubs and eateries along nearby Queensway.
‘He rang my mam that evening, and told her he didn’t want to go to America,’ Rachel recalls. ‘It was the last conversation she had with Richard, but she never picked up on anything being seriously wrong.’
By the time that James Dean Bradfield knocked again, Richey had changed his mind and told him he’d prefer to stay in and have a quiet night instead.
In the version of events presented to the public, James Dean Bradfield was the last person to see Richey alive. However, between the time James went out and came back, Richey had received a guest at the hotel. Much of what the Edwards family learned of the subsequent hours came from the band themselves. That evening, as confirmed to Rachel by the band, Richey was in his room with a female named Vivian.
With only a passing mention of her by the band, Rachel has been unable to ascertain Vivian’s relationship to Richey. She was not mentioned in any of the official police files Rachel accessed in the nineties. She is believed to have been a fan turned friend, yet all of Rachel’s subsequent attempts to track her down have proved fruitless. As well as the mysterious Vivian, the Edwards family are still unsure exactly who – from either the management or the record company – was at the Embassy that fateful night, preparing to travel to the States.
‘We still don’t know exactly what happened that night,’ says Rachel. ‘I’ve spoken to other people with family members who have gone missing, and normally they have received a much fuller picture of the last known 24 hours of their loved ones. For us, though, even after all these years, there’s new information being revealed about the night Richard vanished. It was only after reading a magazine interview with James that we discovered the two of them spent time listening to new songs in the Embassy basement.’
It is not clear at what time, and for how long, Richey’s visitor, Vivian, was in his company that evening, or whether or not he left the Embassy with her.
The following morning, James waited in the hotel lobby for his friend. Richey, normally prompt and punctual, failed to appear. James became concerned when he received no answer from Richey’s room, and requested that a member of staff use a master key to unlock it. On entering, there was no sign of Richey.
They found a bath full of water and a gift box that contained several items; videos, books, photographs and a note, simply reading ‘I love you.’
This was addressed to, and later passed on to, his former girlfriend, Jo. Wrapped like a present, the box was decorated with literary quotes and a collage of cryptic photographs which included everything from cartoon characters to decaying mansions.
Richey’s receipts show that the day before the box’s discovery, he had spent £9.60 at a Surrey printers. Might that have paid for some of the photographic decorations on the box? If so, for how long had Richey been planning to leave this parting gift for Jo?
Twenty-four hours later, band manager Martin Hall filed a missing person report at Harrow Road police station. Staff working at Hall or Nothing were granted access to Richey’s address book, and began phoning around his contacts.
Nobody had heard from him.
Rachel recalls that Graham Edwards was initially reluctant to ask many questions. ‘My dad was of the opinion that the police are there to solve crimes, and he was a bit uncomfortable with it all. He put an article in the Daily Mail, saying, “Please make contact, Richard”, and went on Red Dragon Radio to appeal. My dad felt Richard was an adult and had made his own decision . . . but then he also knew he was ill, so was it his own decision?’
James travelled to the States alone, while Nicky Wire made calls to various British hotels to ascertain whether Richey had checked in. On 15 February, Cardiff Police issued a public statement appealing for information regarding Richey’s whereabouts:
“Police are anxious to trace Richard James Edwards, a member of the pop group ‘Manic Street Preachers’ who has been missing from the London area since Wednesday 1st February, 1995 when he was seen leaving the London Embassy hotel at 7.00am.
It is known that on the same day he visited his home in the Cardiff area and is still believed to be in possession of his silver Vauxhall Cavalier motorcar. Registration – NO: L519 HKX.
Richard’s family, band members and friends are concerned for his safety and welfare, and stress that no pressure will be put on him to return if he does not wish to do. They stress that his privacy will be respected at all times.
Police are asking anyone who has seen Richard, knows of his whereabouts, or have seen his car, to contact them at Cardiff Central Police Station on 0222 22211 and ask for the Crime Desk or CID office.
Should Richard himself hear or see this appeal, his family and friends are anxious for him to contact one of them or the Police to let them know he is safe and well. They again wish to stress that Richard will not be urged to return or reveal his whereabouts if he does not wish to do so.”
A few days later came the news that Richey’s car had been found. The Vauxhall Cavalier was discovered parked at Aust Services on the English side of the Severn crossing. Inside were photographs that Richey had taken of the family after the Christmas period. The ticket attendant who reported the car on 17 February claimed he had first noticed the abandoned vehicle three days earlier, on St Valentine’s Day.