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Keeping alive the memory of missing guard Michelle; CASEBOOK.

Byline: Mark Cowan

EACH December the anguished daughter of a woman feared murdered makes an emotional return to Birmingham for a poignant memorial For the past five years, Tracey Richardson has laid flowers close to the spot where her mum Michelle Gunshon was last seen while in the city working as a security guard.

Detectives have spent the past five years trying to find out what happened to the 38-year-old, but have drawn a blank.

No trace of her has ever been found despite searches in the Worcestershire countryside.

The prime suspect in her disappearance, Martin Stafford, is currently in jail in Ireland, serving time for an unconnected rape.

Mum-of-one Tracey, from Manchester, said she was desperate to know what happened to her mum to end her heartache and stop the nightmares.

"Mum will never be forgotten and sometimes if we are out at night my son Reece will point to a star in the sky and say that it is his nana," she said. "That helps to keep me strong during the tough times."

She added: "I just want to know where my mum is.

"We were very close and would speak at least six or seven times a day on the phone.

"I've lost not only my mum but my best friend as well."

Mum-of-three Michelle, from Mill Hill, in London, was in Birmingham to work as a security guard for the 2004 Clothes Show Live event.

Michelle was part of a group of employees from Special Events Security, a national company that provides marshals for big events, who had checked into the Dubliner pub, in Digbeth, on December 3 after their original hotel was flooded.

She was last seen by a colleague who spoke to her at the pub between 9pm and 10pm on the Saturday evening. But when they got up the next morning, she was not in her room.

When they returned later they discovered her bags and clothes had vanished.

Her blue five-door Escort, registration H814 KNO, which had been parked in nearby Mill Lane, was not there when they left for work.

It was found two days later by police in nearby Rea Street.

A forensic search found blood spots in the boot, on both front seats and also on the outside of the driver's door.

Police later discovered the car had been caught by a speed camera on Bristol Road, Selly Oak, coming into town at 8.20am on Sunday.

Fifty minutes later the car was snapped on the Hagley Road, near to Liberty's nightclub, again travelling into town.

When it was recovered, officers found it spattered with mud and detectives called in psychological profilers and environmental experts to determine where it may have been.

Environmental expert Professor Patricia Wiltshire, who examined the mud splattered Ford Escort said the car was driven down a narrow muddy, country lane with oak and beech trees nearby.

The palaeontologist, who helped the Soham and Sarah Payne cases, said mud deposits were consistent with soil found in the south and south-west of Birmingham.

Police used the force helicopter to scour huge swathes of greenbelt land bordering the M5 and M42 for patches of recently disturbed earth or even a body.

A total of 13 sites were searched and sniffer dogs trained to detect the smell of blood were brought in but police failed to find any evidence of what had happened to her.

A month after Ms Gunshon vanished, detectives named Irishman Martin Stafford as a man they wanted to trace in connection with her disappearance.

At the time, police said they were "as sure as we can be" that he was the man driving Ms Gunshon's car.

He was staying at the Dubliner at the same time and disappeared shortly afterwards, later turning up in Ireland.

In a bizarre twist, little more than a year later, he was arrested on suspicion of abducting a woman. And in 2007, he was jailed for nine years in Dublin after pleading guilty to the rape of a 28-year-old prostitute in a disused railway carriage.

During the horrific attack Staf-f ford kept the woman prisoner for ten hours and threatened her with a hammer and a knife. When he fell asleep, she managed to ring police from the carriage with her mobile phone.

Dublin's Central Criminal Court heard Stafford had 23 previous convictions, including false imprisonment of a cleaner whom he forced to perform a sexual act at knifepoint. The Dubliner received a seven-year sentence for that attack in 1997. West Midlands Police must wait until he has served that sentence before they can seek his transfer to the UK over the matter.

Three years ago the detective in charge of the investigation pledged that Stafford would have to deal with him when he has completed his sentence in Ireland.

Det Chief Insp Ian Bamber, who is leading the inquiry for West Midlands Police, said: "I will be waiting for him in nine years' time. I've retained senior investigative responsibility for this case as it makes no sense to hand it to anyone else.

"I am delighted the victim in Ireland has got the justice she deserved.

"However, the ramification for us is that we will not be able to put our hands on him until he has served that sentence in Ireland.

"This is a considerable frustration for us and an awful frustration for Michelle's family. The longer this goes on, the worse it is for the family."

For 26-year-old Tracey she will continue to make the annual vigil to Digbeth to lay flowers at the scene where her mother was last seen on CCTV cameras waiting and hoping for a breakthrough so she can finally and properly lay her mother to rest.

CAPTION(S):

Picking up the pieces: Tracey Richardson, the daughter of Michelle Gunshon, with her son Reece, the grandson Michelle has never seen. LB200307Tracy-1 Never forgetting: Tracey Richardson leaves flowers close to the spot where her mother Michelle Gunshon was last seen and (left) Tracey at a West Midlands Police press conference appealing for information about her mother's disappearance. Determined to get justice: Police DCI Andy Hough at a press conference and (left) how the media reported the case. Riddle: Missing security guard Michelle Gunshon (left), the prime suspect in her disappearance Martin Stafford

(above) and Michelle's car (below).
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 29, 2010
Words:1054
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