The mystery Richey Edwards, guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers, disappeared without a trace

When it opened in 1966, Severn Bridge was a local architectural pride. 1.6 kilometers long, it made it possible to directly link England to Wales and relieve congestion in the city of Gloucester, which until then had been an essential crossroads. But thirty years later, the Severn Bridge has lost its luster: another bridge, measuring more than 5 kilometers and named Prince of Wales Bridge, has emerged not far from it.

It was on the outskirts of the defeated giant that the local police made a startling discovery on February 17, 1995. An abandoned car, which was most likely used by a certain Richard James Edwards, 27, was found with inside the his family photos. The battery is flat, but for a short time.

The problem is that Richard James Edwards has been missing since the 1is February, i.e. for sixteen days. The pressure to find him is mounting, and for good reason: the one everyone calls Richey is the guitarist of Welsh band Manic Street Preachers.

One last anarchic concert

Formed in 1988 in Blackwood, a small Welsh industrial town, the group became a sensation thanks to a first single, “Suicide Alley”. Then trio, the formation becomes a quartet with the arrival of Richey Edwards on guitar. The one who was first a roadie and a fan of the band then becomes a full member. The aesthetic is resolutely punk, eager to revive the genre in a Great Britain fundamentally turned towards more sophisticated or electronic sounds. In the rock of that time, they are a stain, in the good sense of the term.

They are frontal, not hesitating to attack other artists frontally in their first EP, New Art Riotwhich appeared in 1990, following which Richey Edwards states: “We are just fed up with seeing so much ugliness. Everyone knows life is awful, but it seems to me that every band today wantsillent to depict it.” The Manic Street Preachers have had as many underground successes as they have scandals. A cocktail that brings them notoriety and a signature within the major Sony Music UK, more precisely on the Columbia label. The horses are released.

Between 1990 and 1994, the Manic Street Preachers follow a trajectory that rock knows only too well. Ferociously influenced by The Clash, the four Welshmen go from melancholic, disillusioned lyrics to political rants. They seek each other somewhat, sometimes seem lost in the midst of the changes in the rock sound of the time. The critics are not kind to them, but the public follows. And not just a little.

Would these events have pushed him to isolation, or even to suicide?

In 1994, after the release of their third album The Holy Bible, they are about to reach heights of popularity. But Richey Edwards, he alternates between depressive episodes, his problems with anorexia, self-harm and drug treatments. The specialized press has been enjoying it for months. When the group shows up to play three nights in a row at the Astoria in London, it reveals a haggard guitarist, skinny as can be.

Richey Edwards’ state of health is alarming, this time no one can doubt it. The group returns the place in good and due form, ransacks the equipment during the last concert given on December 21, and leaves the stage. This will be Edwards’ last public appearance.

A withdrawal and mysterious readings

A few weeks later, the group finds itself in London for a series of rehearsals which should lead to draft recordings. Richey Edwards seems to be doing much better. He stays at the Embassy Hotel with James Dean Bradfield, the singer, and for good reason: the 1is February, they must both leave to give a series of interviews in the United States. But Richey does not show up for the meeting given in the hall of the establishment.

Very quickly, his friends and collaborators set out to find him. In his room, they find neither Richey, nor the slightest clue explaining clearly where he could have gone. They understand, however, that he left the hotel early in the morning, then left by car. Where? Excellent question. The police quickly understand that he went back to his flat in Cardiff, then hit the road again. Then nothing.

Some British tourists swear they saw it in Goa, India, or in the Canary Islands.

For two weeks, his relatives, helped by the authorities, try to make sense of his last actions, looking for clues by remembering his actions in the days preceding his flight. A withdrawal of 200 pounds (230 euros according to the current rate) in cash, equivocal poems, mysterious readings… Some see in these small pebbles a fascination for historical disappearances.

And then there’s that day, January 14, 1995, two weeks before Richey Edwards vanished. He goes to his parents’, takes their pictures several times, something he almost never does, goes to the hairdresser to have his head shaved. He also learns of the death of his faithful dog. Would these events have pushed him to isolation, or even to suicide?

Legally presumed dead

On February 7, a taxi driver explained to the police that he had picked up Richey Edwards the day he disappeared from the King’s Hotel in Cardiff. The guitarist would have asked him to take him to Blackwood, the hometown of the Manic Street Preachers. Eventually they would have gone to Pontypool station. The driver would have pocketed the sum of 68 pounds (78 euros) due for the race, before leaving the musician there.

Ten days later, the car that Richey Edwards would probably have used next was found near Severn Bridge. A place notorious for the number of people who jumped from it in order to end their lives. Would Richey have added his name to this long list? This is the most likely hypothesis. But his relatives, including his sister Rachel, do not believe it for a moment. They continue to search and find contradictory, even very intriguing elements.

When Leon Noakes, co-author with Sara Hawys Roberts of the book Withdraw Traces – Searching For The Truth About Richey Manic (released in 2019), returned to Wales to investigate the disappearance, he found that many residents of the Blackwood area were convinced that Richey Edwards had gone to live in a kibbutz in Israel. It is true that the musician had visited the Jewish state several times in the years preceding his departure from the Embassy Hotel.

Some British tourists swear to have seen it in Goa in India, or in the Canary Islands, more precisely on the island Fuerteventura. But for the authorities, Richey Edwards has been legally presumed dead since 2008. Maybe he will reappear, maybe we will find out what he really became, maybe we will learn that he jumped from Severn Bridge, like so many before or after him. In any case, the slightest discovery will act as a resurrection.

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