Clive Bull 5am - 7am
Missing man's mother criticises police as they search Hampstead Heath pond
11 November 2020, 15:43
The mother of a man who has been missing for almost eight years has criticised the initial investigation as an "absolute shambles" as police search a pond on Hampstead Heath.
Relatives of Robert Duff, who would now be 45, raised the alarm on January 12 2013 when he failed to attend his daughter's 18th birthday celebration.
His disappearance was treated as a missing persons inquiry until 2018, when a new witness came forward following a television appeal on ITV London Tonight.
The Metropolitan Police launched a murder investigation and officers began searching bodies of water close to the area where he was last seen.
On Wednesday, the force announced that specialist divers would search Highgate No 1 Pond on Hampstead Heath.
His mother Helen Duff, 67, said: "As a family we have mixed feelings after this announcement, the prospect that Robert could be at the bottom of a pond I walk past regularly is quite upsetting.
"It would raise questions about what happened to Robert, and who did something terrible to him and why.
"But it would also bring some closure to us and his daughters about where he is so we hope someone comes forward with information on the back of this."
Ms Duff went on to describe her son as a "family-orientated" man who was "loved by everyone", adding that he is "in her thoughts everyday".
On the police investigation, Ms Duff said she complained to the police watchdog, then known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as she felt officers failed to take appropriate actions.
Ms Duff said: "I think the initial investigation was an absolute shambles because it wasn't taken seriously.
"I complained ... at the time, as the appropriate steps weren't taken even though we told them that Robert's actions were completely out of character.
"There's not really been any progress and had they been quicker there could be a lot more evidence.
"It feels like a lot of time has been wasted and evidence lost."
Police believe Mr Duff was involved in a fight with two men on the day he disappeared, and was killed that night.
He had been to a flat in Bredgar Road, Archway, north London, on the night and several people were there.
On May 14 2018, two men aged 70 and 51 were arrested on suspicion of murder in Archway and questioned before being released under investigation.
Ms Duff added: "I just hope someone says something if they know anything, as a family we've lost a son, a father, a brother.
"We've been in limbo for almost eight years so we need to get closure and hopefully justice."
Detective Inspector Tom Williams said the search of the pond would continue over the "coming weeks".
He said: "My team remains committed to finding Robert and providing the answers that his family are so desperately longing for.
"Understandably, while this search is ongoing, this will be an incredibly distressing time for Robert's family. I would ask anyone who has information about where Robert is, or what may have happened to him, to contact police.
"Not knowing what has happened to a loved one is a torment no family should endure. If you can help, please do the right thing and contact police and give Robert's family the closure they deserve."
Anyone with information can call police on 020 8358 0200 or on 101.