‘Clearly Daniel is a very missed person and there is a gap left by his absence’ - Teachers reaction to Daniel Entwistle’s disappearance from Great Yarmouth 14 years ago
- Credit: EDP � 2003
When seven-year-old Daniel Entwistle disappeared 14 years ago to the day, it shook a close-knit seaside community to its core.
Daniel, who would be 21-years-old now, vanished on May 3 from his home in Copperfield Avenue, Great Yarmouth.
The youngster, who was a pupil at Greenacre school when he went missing, was last seen at about 5pm on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend when he went out to play on his red BMX.
The alarm was raised by Daniel's parents after he failed to come home for tea. Norfolk Police launched a full-scale search of the area, involving numerous land, sea and air searches.
MORE: It's been 14 years since seven-year-old Daniel Entwistle vanished while out playingDaniel was caught on CCTV cameras at Blencowes, a newsagents near his home, at about 5.05pm on May 3 and in the early hours of the following day a bike, believed to be his, was found abandoned close to Trinity Quay in Yarmouth.
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But despite immediate appeals for information, including an emotional call from Mr Entwistle for help to find his 'special little boy', no trace of Daniel has ever been found.
MORE: Community shocked at death of father of missing boyFresh appeals for have been made on the anniversaries of his disappearance, the most recent in 2013. Daniel's case remains open and to this day he remains a missing person.
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In January 2015 the body of Daniel's father, David, was found in Lowestoft. Police treated the death as 'non-suspicious'.
A report from this newspaper a week after Daniel's disappearance outlined the impact it had on the community:
It's only an empty coat peg in a school cloakroom. But it is a reminder that one of the 28 pupils in class 34FW is missing.
Pupils at Greenacre First, Middle and Nursery in Yarmouth have waited a week for the return of their classmate, producing poignant messages and drawings.
Headteacher Keith Egleton said he was in daily contact with Daniel's parents David and Paula and the school had received a lot of support.
'The children have been wonderful. Some have been very sad and some very frightened when they came to school. As the week has gone by they have been sensing things are not as they usually are. Clearly Daniel is a very missed person and there is a gap left by his absence.'
Staff have received support from volunteers from the YMCA while colleagues at neighbouring Homefield First School also helped out and supply teacher agency Timeplan took some lessons to give the Greenacre teachers a break.
'Thursday was one of the hardest days when real life started to creep back in,' Mr Egleton said. 'Staff found that extremely traumatic because they literally had to get on with the everyday job.
'I think the fear among the staff and the support staff is the quietness and the limbo – the lack of anything to deal with. We would love to be able to deal with the celebration of Daniel's return – equally it's needing something to know.
'It has been a nightmare. I have experienced bereavement in a school and I know what it's like to be around a family that's lost a child in tragic circumstances and I wouldn't ever want to undermine that but this is even worse.
'I took my wife and son round to the family on Wednesday night just to show them that my family were thinking of them and wanting to express their support.'
Martin Fuller, Daniel's class teacher for the past two years, recalled a strong-willed boy who was full of curiosity.
'He loved drawing and making models and working on the computer and he loved talking to the class telling them the things he had found out and showing them things he had brought to school,' he said. 'He took a great interest in the world and he would have a good understanding of the news.
'He would ask questions in science and he would be the one who was asking questions and would explore and want to find out more – he was very inquiring.'
Yesterday, police continued to search buildings around where his red BMX bike was found at Trinity Square by the quayside.
Daniel was captured on a shop security camera at Blencowe's newsagents buying a pint of milk before returning home. He went out again on his red BMX bike where CCTV cameras apparently tracked him around 20 minutes later in the forecourt of the Texaco garage next to where his bike was found.
Karla Tibble, who works at the garage, said she arrived to open up at 6am last Sunday to see a police forensic team outside.
'It's just the shock,' she said. 'I have been out there many times and told the kids not to play out there.
But at the end of the day they are not my kids and you can't keep telling them these things.
There are unconfirmed sightings of Daniel between 7pm and 8.30pm, though it is not clear if he was on his bike at that stage.
The visible focus of the investigation has been on searching the rivers and coastline and nearby buildings close to where his bike was found, while back at Yarmouth Police station, officers sift through more than 700 calls which have come into the inquiry.
Yesterday, a 76-year-old neighbourhood watch co-ordinator claimed that Daniel, who was known to be a target of bullies, was seen near, but slightly apart from, a group of older children by the quayside at around 3.30pm on Saturday.
Although earlier than the time he disappeared, it prompted questions from the assembled press pack at the evening police briefing that other children may know what has happened to him but were too frightened to come forward.
Det Supt Julian Gregory, who is leading the hunt, said anybody who saw anything had nothing to fear.
'If somebody saw something happening they are not going to be in trouble for telling us what they saw,' he said. 'We have still got a very open mind about this. I would just stress that is just one option.
'We have certainly looked at Daniel's peer group. But with young children you have to be very certain about the accuracy of what they say and they can say things they think you want to hear.'
Det Supt Gregory goes through the twice daily ritual of dealing with the media, and the message remains the same – the hunt for Daniel goes on and all options remain open.