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Mum speaks about her search for missing son

Mum speaks about her search for missing son

Published at 3:25pm 23rd April 2016. (Updated at 11:18am 24th April 2016)

The mother of a Skipton man who went missing in York says she's convinced that he didn't fall into the river.

29-year-old Rory Johnson-Hatfield has been missing since the early hours of 20 November last year, when he disappeared on a night out in the city.

As Liz Johnson prepares to visit the area again, to carry out more searches alongside the River Ouse, she speaks to David Dunning about her son and why she has a "mother's instinct" that says he didn't fall in and is somewhere else.

Rory Johnson-Hatfield search

Liz Johnson

Liz has always lived in St Annes-on-Sea.

Like Rory, she was born and raised on the Fylde coast of Lancashire, near Blackpool.

Liz knows a lot of people and her friends network has been a constant support.

She gives me a quick tour of the area after picking me up from the station.

Like a lot places, the one thing that's changed is the price of property and the two towns of St Annes and Lytham are now a very popular place for people who have retired and those seeking a bit of sea air.

Then we go to the home of Rory's grandmother who Liz now looks after on a daily basis.

She talks about that "mother's instinct" which is telling her that Rory is still alive and didn't fall into the flooded river that night in York.

She feels he's in trouble somewhere and says she will never give up looking for him.

More searches

This Sunday, together with friends and volunteers, she will continue her own personal search of the river bank south of York in an effort to discover what has happened to him.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman has already said officers would not be carrying out further "active searches" for Rory unless there was new information.

It was stressed the investigation was continuing and they issued another plea for anyone with information to come forward.

If you know anything, call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Liz says she is carrying on the search anyway and with the help of friends they have covered many miles of the banks of the Ouse to the south of Naburn Lock.

It's all about showing Rory that people care about him and want to find him.

I sense that this is all about proving that Rory is not in the area as much as trying to find any evidence that he is.

Rory Johnson-Hatfield search

Liz with friends and volunteers in March

Liz still feels unable to conduct a recorded interview either on tape or video, but she talks to me freely about the worry, fear and frustration she is going through at the moment.

We both agree that it's not the right time to record.

I just take notes and say I will tell her story myself.

She says she has seen a spiritualist from Blackpool and was told by the woman that Rory was "not on the other side".

She says that she knew this anyway.

It's a deep feeling she has within.

"I know Rory did not fall into the river and I know he's out there somewhere."

Liz last saw Rory over the weekend of 24 and 25 October 2015.

It was a happy time and they went shopping in St Annes.

After meeting up with some friends for drinks and a meal, Liz decided that she wasn't up to a full night out, so called it a day and went home.

Rory carried on with friends and he seemed to enjoy himself.

On the Sunday, she waved him off on his way back to Skipton with a friend.

"I hugged him and said make sure you have your seatbelt on and all the usual things a mother would do."

That was the last time she saw him, but later in the week they talked on the phone and he said the date with the girl had gone well.

He made no mention of any plans to go to York.

Rory Johnson-Hatfield

Rory with his grandmother

Liz told me that Rory is a happy, outgoing and very sociable young man.

He is, she said, just great fun to be with.

He had moved to Skipton and enjoyed his job at Brody's Yorkshire Pizzeria.

Rory is a big user of social media.

He chats to anyone and made lots of different friends on Facebook and Tinder.

"Rory didn't care how old you were or where you were from, he just found people fascinating and had many friends all over the North."

She knows his phone would hold the answer to a lot of questions about who he knew and where he had been, but of course it's not possible to get hold of information like that.

It's all locked up within his smartphone and Apple won't give her access to it at the moment.

Liz admits that life wasn't always running smoothly for Rory.

He had had problems with accommodation in Skipton and a move into a friend's house had not been successful.

He was living in a bedsit and Liz feels that he wasn't settled.

She thinks that as he was approaching 30, he was wanting to find the right girl and settle down.

There had been incidents in his life that had caused her concern too.

In June last year, he had complained that his drink had been spiked on a night out in Skipton.

When he came home, she had seen bruises on his legs, but had never got to the bottom of what that was all about.

She would like to know what happened and says if anyone knows more then they should come forward.

They had an open and honest relationship and he would tell her things about his life, but may have been hiding some other deeper worries.

She accepts that if he ran away, either on the spur of the moment or in a planned move that night in York, he may be feeling it's gone too far and there is no going back.

She hopes Rory will see this and understand that there is nothing that can't be put right.

"Forget about the police searches and the publicity, none of that matters. We love you very much and we just want to know you are OK. Just tell ANYONE you are OK."

Describing what day-to-day life was like for her now, she said: "It is a living nightmare. You feel guilty about doing the normal things in life that you must carry on doing. It's a struggle on a day-to-day basis."

She appears incredibly strong and brave, but talking about the effect on her is very hard, so we pause and have another cup of tea.

Later, she said: "I will never stop looking for Rory. We were always talking on the phone and I saw him on a regular basis throughout the year. I miss him so much and I want Rory to know he is adored.

"There is nothing he can't talk to me about and nothing he can't tell me. Just call us! Call Dad, call me, call a friend, just let me know you are safe."

Another search of the river bank takes place this Sunday, with volunteers, friends and family meeting at 12pm at The Blacksmiths Arms in Naburn.