Daily Mirror, 3rd April 1980
WHY THE ALLENS REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER
Hundreds of children, fed up with home or school, or torn by puppy love, run away. Most come home again within forty-eight hours. One who didn’t was Martin Allen a quiet boy who, like thousands of other kids, travelled on his own to and from school …and met danger on the way.
Just five months ago chauffeur Tom Allen and his family were just amazed at their good luck.
Their modernised cottage-style house in the smartest part of London was one of the perks of Tom’s new job as head driver to the Australian High Commissioner.
Their neighbours in Kensington, W. London, were a posh lot of people with titles and tiaras.
But today the Allens’ dreams have crumbled.
Martin, 15, the youngest of their four sons, disappeared on his way home from school last Guy Fawkes’ Day. He has not been seen since.
That morning he picked up his yellow sports bag and set off for school with a cheerful: “Cheerio, Mum. Hope you have a good day.”
They were the last words his mother heard him say.
If you could see the awful sadness in Eileen Allen’s face as she talks about her missing son, you’d never forget it.
You’d go home, look gratefully at your own children, and then thank God that what has happened to Eileen’s family hasn’t happened to yours.
In the terrible months since, she has lost a stone-and-a-half. In the first weeks she couldn’t eat for thinking of Martin lying somewhere, hurt and uncared for, perhaps without any food.
Now Eileen, 51, says: “We are trying to pick up and go on where we left off on November 5.
“It’s as though the world and time have been standing still. Although Christmas has gone, it seems we are still waiting for it.
“In the beginning, I couldn’t talk about Martin without crying. Now I’ve got used to it—until something happens like an incident today.
“I went into the back room to put away a sleeping bag someone had used. I opened the cupboard and there were Martin’s Christmas presents, still all wrapped up.
“It brought everything back, just when I thought I had come to some sort of terms with it.”
In the hunt for Martin, which still goes on, the police conducted London’s biggest ever house-to-house search.
A team of forty detectives questioned 40,000 residents in London’s bedsit land around Earl’s Court underground station where passengers saw a boy believed to be Martin on the afternoon he went missing.
A man was holding a lad by the scruff of the neck, saying: “Don’t try to run”.
Martin was a shy boy, young for his age. He wasn’t a stay-out teenager or an angry adolescent who might rebel by running away.
The police, like his parents, fear the worst—that he was abducted by a man with violent or sexual intentions.
Says Eileen: “Knowing Martin, that would be one of the worst things that could have happened. He was a sensitive, home-loving kid.
“Even if he comes back, what sort of state physically, let alone mentally, is he going to be in?”
“He’ll never be the same Martin who walked out of that door. He wouldn’t even go round to the corner shop on his own to buy a packet of sweets after dark. He’d get Kevin, his older brother, to go with him, or take his dog Lady.
It’s been a very traumatic experience for us, but at least we’ve had each other. He’s had nobody.
“If we hadn’t come to live here, it probably would never have happened.
“But we’ve been through all the ifs. We can’t go on like that and drive ourselves slowly mad. To keep our sanity we have to accept the fact that he has gone, and try to look ahead, not back.”
Except for the fingerprint powder, Martin’s bedroom is as he left it, with his pyjamas tucked neatly under his pillow.
Says Eileen: “I keep saying I must go up there to take off the sheets and clear it out. But how can I, until I really know?”
It took a television programme to bring forward the first witnesses. By then Martin had missing for five weeks.
“Where the public fell down was minding their own business,” says Eileen.
Had somebody asked ‘Are you all right, son?’ when they saw he was frightened, it would have been enough to make the man run away.
“People are so busy, so frightened of doing the wrong thing. But its not being nosey, it’s being careful.”
Warnings every child should heed
The mystery surrounding Martin Allen highlights the daily danger facing thousands of schoolchildren who travel to and from school on their own.
Inquiries stemming from the search for Martin have led to the arrest of four people suspected of molesting children. They have been charged with indecent assault and more serious offences against youngsters.
Det. Chief Insp. David Veness, who has been leading the hunt for Martin, says: “This case has been an eye-opener to the great dangers facing children who use the London Underground.
The Inspector warns:
– never get into a conversation with a stranger.
– always ask to see the identity card of anyone who says he is an official.