MISSING: Linda Millard and her car that was found at Battery Point (Avon & Somerset Police)
POLICE have said they cannot rule out foul play in the disappearance of a woman 23 years ago who vanished after reporting to police a potential suspect in the notorious "Essex Boys" murders. Detectives appealed for anyone who knows anything about the disappearance of Linda Millard 23 years ago today to come forward. Linda was 48 when she was last seen in Portishead, near Bristol, where she was staying with a friend, at about 9.30am on Friday March 1n 1996. She had previously lived with a partner in the Swanage area of Dorset. She was reported missing at about 10pm the same day after which police found her car – a white Austin Mini Metro - and some of her personal possessions near Battery Point in Portishead, a known suicide hotspot.
POSSESSIONS: Inside Linda Millard's car as it was found (Avon & Somerset Police)
Her handbag and car keys were locked in the boot and she was never seen again. Police have also issued new photographs in the hope it triggers someone's memory. DI Lisa Jones, of Avon and Somerset Police Major Crime Review Team, said: “We are treating this as a missing person inquiry but we’re keeping an open mind about the circumstances of Linda’s disappearance and we cannot rule out foul play. “The case has never been closed and reviews have taken place in the time since the original investigation but sadly we’ve been unable to locate Linda or find out definitively what happened to her. Last September Essex News and Investigations exclusively revealed that her disappearance came after she told her friend and police of her suspicions about the man's behaviour in the wake of the gangland slayings. It was nearly three months after the murders, and just days after she had raised her concerns.
SEARCH: Linda Millard still comes up as a missing person on charity website (Missingpeople.org.uk)
Relatives of Mrs Millard, still desperate for answers over what happened, are convinced she did not commit suicide and there may have been foul play involved in her disappearance. Her daughter Yvonne Cathrall said: “On behalf of myself and my two brothers, we would like to appeal to the public in relation to the disappearance of our mum. It has been 23 years since our mum went missing and we miss her very much. “Not a day goes by when we don't think about her and ask ourselves what happened that day. “If anyone has any information (who may not have been confident at the time), please can they come forward to help. My brothers and I desperately wish to find out so that we can finally have some peace and closure.” An earlier statement from the family of Mrs Millard said: "We are certain that mum did not take her own life and would never have done that. Something must have happened to her and someone out there must know something. We just want to know the truth and urge anyone who does know anything to come forward."
DI Jones added: "We want to help Linda’s family find the truth as they’re left with so many unanswered questions and deserve to know what happened to her. “The passage of time sometimes allows people to come forward with information they may have felt unable to give to the police at the time or they initially felt was not relevant. “We would encourage anyone with information about Linda’s disappearance to come forward now and help her family find some form of closure.” Linda is white, 5ft 2ins, slim, with blue eyes. She would now be 71. At the time she had chestnut brown hair in a bob style and was last seen wearing a navy blue and white checked shirt, black jeans and a black anorak with a vivid pink trim and collar. Detectives want to hear from anyone who saw her or spoke to her in the days or weeks leading up to her disappearance. Or anyone who saw her car (registration M987 LOE) prior to her disappearance or parked at Battery Point. Of course, anyone who has spoken to or seen her since March 1 1996 would be of great interest.
JAILED: Michael Steele (left) and Jack Whomes claim they are innocent (Essex Police)
Michael Steele, 75, and Jack Whomes, 56, were jailed for life in January 1998 after being found guilty of the Essex "Rettendon Range Rover" murders of Essex drug barons Patrick Tate, 37, Tony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26. Their bodies were found in a Range Rover parked in a remote farm track in Rettendon, Essex, on the morning of December 7 1995. The slayings have been the subject of several British gangster feature films, which have speculated about what happened. Whomes, from Brockford, Suffolk, and Steele, of from Great Bentley, Essex, were involved in drug deals with the murdered gangsters but have always denied killing them. The pair launched a new bid for freedom, with an application to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) based on claims of non-disclosure of evidence before the trial, last May. Last September we revealed that Essex Police was notified about the disappearance of Mrs Millard and her claims about the man, who is not Whomes or Steele, two days after she vanished.
MURDERED: Dead drug dealers Pat Tate (left), Tony Tucker (middle) and Craig Rolfe (Essex Police)
An Essex Police document seen by this website described information received by phone from Avon and Somerset Police on March 3 1996 about its inquiries into Mrs Millard. The document recorded that the Avon and Somerset Police officer said: "We have a missing person enquiry for a Linda Millard." It said while at a friend's house in Bristol, Mrs Millard, originally from Essex, had detailed to her about overhearing the man, who lived in Dorset at the time, on the phone after news of the murders broke. It went on to say that on March 1 1996 - ten days after she arriving at her friend's home - the man in question "found where she was staying" and she went missing the same day. It added: "Her car has been found on the cliffs, locked with her shoes inside." The document added that after overhearing the former Essex man in question on the phone, after news of the murders broke, "she thought he had some knowledge of/involvement in the killings." It added that Mrs Millard claimed the man had four or five properties in Essex and one in Dorset and would often travel to Portugal. It said: "Millard believed he was involved in funding drugs, counterfeit perfumes, and pornographic videos."
SCENE: The Range Rover (right) plus Essex Boys author Bernard O'Mahoney (left) with Tucker (O'Mahoney)
Mrs Millard's relatives said she also passed evidence about the man to police while staying at the friend's, but despite him being interviewed again during a more recent review of the case by police, it had led to no more answers. The man, now 75, who is named in the police report but we are not identifying for legal reasons, was unavailable for comment. No-one has ever been arrested in connection with Linda’s disappearance but as part of the original investigation a 51-year-old man was spoken to and allowed his property to be searched voluntarily. No evidence of wrongdoing was found. Last year we spoke with a former business associate from Essex, who was involved with him in property development. He said: "I have not seen him for about 15 years. He was going to join me in a development in Portugal, but pulled out. "I know the police spoke to him at the time, but he had done nothing wrong. He would not be involved in anything like that." Although he did say he was aware he had "an interest" in pornography. If you know anything about Mrs Millard's disappearance call the Major Crime Review Team on 101 and give the call handler the reference number MP4472/11. You can also give information anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org at this website in strict confidence.