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The tearful mother of missing Steven Clark accuses the police of ‘trying to incriminate’ her and her husband in a new documentary about their son’s disappearance and the subsequent police investigation.

Steven Clark was 23 when he went missing in Saltburn, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, in December 1992, after his parents said he failed to emerge from public toilets during a family walk. 

Almost 30 years later, in September 2020, Cleveland Police arrested his parents Doris, 81, and Charles Clark, 78, and searched their seaside home and garden in Marske.

ITV cameras and presenter Mark Williams-Thomas, a former police detective, followed the couple throughout the 17-week police investigation, which culminated in them being released without charge.

In one scene in Accused of Murdering Our Son: The Steven Clark Story, which airs on ITV at 9pm, Doris breaks down in tears after learning that a person claiming to know the identity of Steven’s killer, or killers, has come forward. 

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A new documentary which follows pensioner parents as they were arrested on suspicion of the 1992 murder of their son reveals the emotional moment the mother breaks down and suggests 'the police are determined to incriminate us' (pictured)

A new documentary which follows pensioner parents as they were arrested on suspicion of the 1992 murder of their son reveals the emotional moment the mother breaks down and suggests 'the police are determined to incriminate us' (pictured)

A new documentary which follows pensioner parents as they were arrested on suspicion of the 1992 murder of their son reveals the emotional moment the mother breaks down and suggests ‘the police are determined to incriminate us’ (pictured)

Steven Clark (pictured) was 23 when he went missing in Saltburn, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, in December 1992, after his parents said he failed to emerge from public toilets during a family walk

Steven Clark (pictured) was 23 when he went missing in Saltburn, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, in December 1992, after his parents said he failed to emerge from public toilets during a family walk

Steven Clark (pictured) was 23 when he went missing in Saltburn, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, in December 1992, after his parents said he failed to emerge from public toilets during a family walk

In September 2020, following a cold case review, Cleveland Police arrested his elderly parents Doris, 81, and Charles Clark (pictured), 78, and searched their seaside home and garden in Marske

In September 2020, following a cold case review, Cleveland Police arrested his elderly parents Doris, 81, and Charles Clark (pictured), 78, and searched their seaside home and garden in Marske

In September 2020, following a cold case review, Cleveland Police arrested his elderly parents Doris, 81, and Charles Clark (pictured), 78, and searched their seaside home and garden in Marske

In 1999, seven years after Steven’s disappearance, a mysterious letter was sent anonymously to police. It is not known whether Doris and Charles were directly incriminated in the letter but it claims to contain vital information relating to their son’s fate.

In response to learning the letter writer had finally come forward after a fresh police appeal, Doris says: ‘It’s a nightmare. God, I just want it to go away. Go away, I can’t bear it. I can’t. They’re villains, absolute villains, whoever it is,’ apparently referring to the people responsible for her son’s disappearance. 

Trying to comfort her, Charles says: ‘Listen, don’t believe half the stuff. Anyway, it’s up to you, can’t help you anymore.’

‘It’s alright believing or not believing, it’s happening isn’t it,’ replies Doris. ‘And the police are absolutely determined to incriminate us.’

To this, Charles says: ‘We’ll have to wait for the police to come round which they’re apparently going to do, and we’ll face them when they come. 

‘That’s the end of it. The story hasn’t changed. Did you murder Steven? Did I murder Steven? Don’t be silly.’  

Airing tonight on ITV at 9pm, Accused of Murdering Our Son - The Steven Clark Story sees Doris break down as she suggests 'the police are determined to incriminate us' (pictured)

Airing tonight on ITV at 9pm, Accused of Murdering Our Son - The Steven Clark Story sees Doris break down as she suggests 'the police are determined to incriminate us' (pictured)

Airing tonight on ITV at 9pm, Accused of Murdering Our Son – The Steven Clark Story sees Doris break down as she suggests ‘the police are determined to incriminate us’ (pictured)

The couple have since been released without charge following the 17-week long investigation last year. Pictured, Steven Clark

The couple have since been released without charge following the 17-week long investigation last year. Pictured, Steven Clark

The couple have since been released without charge following the 17-week long investigation last year. Pictured, Steven Clark

Mr Clark, who walked with a pronounced limp as a result of a childhood road accident, is said to have walked on the beach from Marske to Saltburn at around 3pm.

The missing persons report says that he went to use the gents’ public toilets near to the pier on the promenade in Saltburn, when his mother went into the ladies at the same time.

Believing she had missed him coming back out, Doris returned home. But she never saw her son again.  

Doris agreed to film the ITV documentary in the hope the publicity might finally lead investigators to the truth about what happened to her son. 

Charles and Doris (pictured) also share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic car accident when aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a severely damaged left arm and leg, as well as a pronounced limp

Charles and Doris (pictured) also share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic car accident when aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a severely damaged left arm and leg, as well as a pronounced limp

Charles and Doris (pictured) also share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic car accident when aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a severely damaged left arm and leg, as well as a pronounced limp

Earlier in the programme, an emotional Doris is once again in tears when a police letter informs the couple they are freed from bail but still under investigation, and may be re-interviewed

Earlier in the programme, an emotional Doris is once again in tears when a police letter informs the couple they are freed from bail but still under investigation, and may be re-interviewed

Earlier in the programme, an emotional Doris is once again in tears when a police letter informs the couple they are freed from bail but still under investigation, and may be re-interviewed

The programme explores both sides of the story and reveals the intense pressure experienced by the couple forced to relive the anguish of Steven’s disappearance and face the prospect of being jailed.

From having their garden dug up and house searched by police looking for a body to media speculation – the couple’s unfolding nightmare is witnessed by Mr Williams-Thomas.

At points throughout the weeks, Mr Williams-Thomas checks in with retired senior police officer Julie Mackay, the former Head of Major Crime at Avon and Somerset Police, who remembers the case. 

She offers her insight on the police investigation and the decision to accuse Steven’s parents 28 years on from their son’s disappearance.

Charles and Doris also share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic car accident when aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a severely damaged left arm and leg, as well as a pronounced limp. 

Doris says: 'He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.' Pictured, Steven Clark

Doris says: 'He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.' Pictured, Steven Clark

Doris says: ‘He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.’ Pictured, Steven Clark

Doris says: ‘He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.’

Mr Williams-Thomas says: ‘Over 17 weeks I followed Charles and Doris whilst they were accused of the murder of their son. 

‘My approach was to be totally impartial, my questioning direct, as I unpicked their accounts and explored the possible scenarios around Steven’s sudden disappearance. 

Timeline of Steven Clark’s disappearance 

  • December 28, 1992: Steven Clark is seen going into the gents’ public toilets at 3pm in Saltburn, Cleveland, while his mother goes into the ladies. 
  • When Steven doesn’t come out, his mother think he has made his own way home. 
  • A new witness has placed Steven in Marske later that afternoon, before it got dark at 3.45pm.  
  • September 1999: An anonymous letter was posted to Guisborough Police Station relating to Steven’s disappearance. 
  • September 15, 2020: Following a cold case review, it is revealed that Steven’s elderly parents have been arrested on suspicion of his murder. 
  • September 16, 2020: After being quizzed for six hours at the police station, Steven’s parents insist they did not kill their son. 
  • September 17, 2020: Police investigating murder urge the writer of the anonymous letter in 1999 to make contact. 
  • September 19, 2020: A tent is set up in at Doris and Charles Clark’s home as specialist officers begin investigations in the back garden of the couple’s home.
  • December 9, 2020: Doris and Charles Clark are bailed
  • February 15, 2021: Police confirm Doris and Charles Clark are released from investigation without charge 
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‘It’s a compelling real-life story, providing an intimate insight to the unique experience of this couple that is as close to a crime drama as you will ever see on television.’

Now ruled out as suspects in the murder investigation, Doris and Charles aim to get on with their lives and still live in hope that one day Steven will return to their family home. 

At the time of their release from the investigation without charge, Doris said: ‘It’s wonderful. It was never going to be any other way really. It is fantastic news to get from the police.

‘I think it has not really sunk in yet, I am sure tomorrow we will be feeling more completely ecstatic. It is a good thing to have happened.’

In September, after she and her husband had been arrested and bailed, she told reporters the situation was ‘absolutely ludicrous’.

In February, Cleveland Police said the investigation into Steven’s disappearance was continuing.

The force, which has never publicly identified the couple as suspects, said: ‘Two people arrested on suspicion of the murder of Steven Clark have now been released from the investigation without charge.’ 

Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Page said: ‘Officers from the joint Cleveland and North Yorkshire Police Cold Case Unit have followed a significant number of lines of enquiry since the launch of the murder investigation in 2020, which followed a review of the original case.

‘We are continuing to investigate Steven’s disappearance and people can continue to contact us with information. 

There is no proof of life and we believe Steven has come to serious harm, and the case continues to be classified as one of suspected murder.’

At the time of his disappearance, Steven was attending the Rathbone Society in Redcar, which worked with people with disabilities to improve their employment skills.

Following ITV’s documentary, a Cleveland Police spokesperson said: ‘The arrests were planned sensitively, a police station was opened specifically for the two people arrested and only them. They were not placed with anyone else in custody, their time in police custody was not for the maximum which would have been available to officers.

‘Each stage was prepared to take into account their age and any other circumstances, including any vulnerabilities. Neither the identities, nor the gender of the two people arrested was given to media, and the couple identified themselves when approached by a journalist.

‘Those arrested are also given the opportunity to have a legal representative present during interview, which is under caution.

‘The new investigation into Steven’s disappearance has been led by a team of specialist detectives from the Cleveland and North Yorkshire Cold Case Unit following a review of the case.

‘The team continues to investigate Steven’s disappearance and as a result of the reinvestigation and the fact that there is no proof of life, detectives believe that Steven has come to harm and have classified the case as one of suspected murder.

‘Officers continue to appeal for anyone with information to come forward either directly to the team or to the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously.

‘They would like to hear from anyone who may have seen Steven on the Christmas bank holiday weekend in 1992, which was Friday 25 December to Monday 28 December. Information can also be provided through the Major Incident Public Portal, mipp.co.uk’

The mystery that’s stumped police for 30 years: How Steven Clark, 23, disappeared after going into a public toilet on a day out with his mother

Born in 1969, Steven was Doris and Charles’ first child. Younger sister Victoria arrived a year later, but at the age of two Steven was involved in a terrible accident.

Walking along the street with his mother, he was hit by a lorry. He spent weeks in hospital and was left with life-changing injuries to his arm and leg. From that time on he walked with a distinctive limp and needed more care than most children, though he never needed walking aids. 

After the Clarks left the police in the late Sixties (Doris had served ten years as a WPC; Charles served five and reached the rank of sergeant before quitting to set up a car rental business), they lived in Guildford for a while, then moved to South Africa for ten years, where Steven did well academically. 

Steven (pictured) went missing 28 years ago, seemingly on a post-Christmas walk with his mum

Steven (pictured) went missing 28 years ago, seemingly on a post-Christmas walk with his mum

Steven (pictured) went missing 28 years ago, seemingly on a post-Christmas walk with his mum

On their return to the UK, they bought a house in their native North East. ‘Steven did a couple of courses and did very well on them. He even won the Apprentice of the Year award, but back then nobody wanted to employ someone with a disability. He did some voluntary work but was a bit down about not getting a job.

‘He did want his independence. He would have liked to be living on his own, like any 23-year-old. He didn’t like us mollycoddling him. But he wasn’t depressed, nothing like that,’ Doris told the Daily Mail in an interview in February.

Most weekends, Steven went with his father to watch their football team, Middlesbrough, play. This Saturday he did not.

‘Charles had said it was about time Steven paid for his own ticket. Steven, being tight, wouldn’t. He decided not to go. We regret that now.’

So as Charles headed to the match, Steven and his mum went for a walk along the beach to neighbouring Saltburn, about two miles away. ‘He could walk that far,’ she stresses.

Steven said he needed to use the toilets and they headed for the block on the promenade. ‘He went in. I sat on the wall outside, then decided I might as well go to the Ladies. When I came out, I sat down again.

‘There were two men with a little girl and they went into the toilets too, one after the other. I remember thinking it was a sign of the times that they didn’t want to leave a little girl on her own.’

She doesn’t know how long she sat there but eventually Doris reasoned she must have missed Steven coming out. She has asked herself countless times why she didn’t go in and look for him.

For nearly three decades, the case had lain in the police files. There is ample evidence that the Clarks — both former police officers; they met while on the force in the Sixties — never stopped looking for him

For nearly three decades, the case had lain in the police files. There is ample evidence that the Clarks — both former police officers; they met while on the force in the Sixties — never stopped looking for him

For nearly three decades, the case had lain in the police files. There is ample evidence that the Clarks — both former police officers; they met while on the force in the Sixties — never stopped looking for him

‘But at the time it didn’t even occur to me. He was a 23-year-old man. I couldn’t waltz into the gents and say “are you finished?”. Maybe if he’d been three . . .’

Confused, she headed home.

‘I remember getting three cups out for coffee but when Charles returned, Steven was still not home.’ Her concern was growing. ‘It wasn’t like him, and he’d be tired after that walk. Charles got in the car and went to have a look.’

That night, they called the police and reported Steven missing. ‘But they could only class him as formally missing after 24 hours,’ Doris says.

There were sightings of Steven in the days following, of which the police were always aware, the Clarks insist, and which seemed to rule out the idea of immediate foul play. ‘One friend, Stan, who has since died, said he saw Steven in Redcar, and he went to speak to him but Steven ran off. The police knew about that,’ says Charles.

‘Once we had a call saying someone had seen him in a pub. I got in the car but there was no sign.’

In 1993 they went on a TV show, presented by Alastair Stewart and Fiona Foster, to appeal for help. Nothing. The months became years. For decades now, they have been involved with the charity Missing People and say they have tried to ‘keep an open mind’ about what could have happened to Steven. Hope lived on.

They say they haven’t dared move house, in case Steven turns up. ‘If he came up the path now I think I’d give him a good slap, then a big hug,’ says Doris.  

But there were new leads. A new witness placed Steven near his home at 3pm on the day in question, rather than miles away at Saltburn. Curiously, there is also a letter, sent anonymously to the police seven years after Steven’s disappearance. This time round, after a police appeal, the author came forward. 

Accused of Murdering Our Son – The Steven Clark Story is on ITV tonight 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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