The wife of a businessman who disappeared while out cycling has spoken publicly for the first time about the devastating impact it has had on her family — and hit out over hurtful rumours.
Samuel Campbell’s wife Laverne also begged her husband to get in touch with his family to let them know he is safe and end the nightmare they have endured over the past year.
Mr Campbell was last seen as he set off on his bike from his Kells home, just outside Ballymena in Co Antrim, on New Year’s Day last year.
The 50-year-old father-of-three never returned home.
His bicycle was discovered propped up against a wall a mile outside Glenarm two days later.
Despite extensive land and sea searches, police reconstructions and widespread leaflet drops, his whereabouts remain a mystery.
Breaking her silence for the first time since her husband of almost three decades disappeared, Mrs Campbell said she is at a complete loss as to why there has been no contact.
Mrs Campbell said she was aware of rumours circulating around Ballymena that her husband was in financial trouble, had family problems or had been suffering from stress.
She rubbished those suggestions, saying her husband was a loving father with no financial concerns or troubles which would have spurred him to flee.
He gave those closest to him no indication of any thoughts he may have been having of leaving his home permanently, and had been in good spirits on the day he went missing, she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“He never showed anything which suggested he was thinking of leaving,” said Mrs Campbell.
“It’s had a big impact on us as a family.
“We’re close, but at the same time you are sometimes afraid to say something in case it hurts. I’d love to know how the children are feeling at times, but I know they are being strong for me. It’s the same from their point of view, that’s what it’s like.”
Mr Campbell was an experienced cyclist and enjoyed other sports including golf, surfing and squash.
He was also a devout church-goer and a charity fundraiser. Mrs Campbell said her husband had no reason she knew of to want to end his life or relocate without their knowing, and is bemused as to why he has not been in contact with his family.
“He wasn’t the sort of man who, and I don’t like hearing it, would have went into the water,” she said.
“But he isn’t the kind of man who would go away, either, so we are inbetween.
“The only thing that keeps me going is the children.”
Son Christopher said the family had racked their brains trying to figure out what happened. “People say this, that and the other but there’s nothing.
“We will get answers but we have to wait for that. You just have to keep going.”
The family have appealed for Samuel, or anyone who may know of his whereabouts, to come forward. “If you’re out there Sam please get in contact, if not with us, contact somebody,” said Mrs Campbell. “We just want him to let us know he is okay, just to put us at ease.”
Mr Campbell was last seen wearing a red top, black cycling leggings and cycle glasses.
Sam headed off on his bike, he was in good form... there were no signs he was going to go away and not come back again
By Chris Kilpatrick
It was a year any proud father would cherish. In 2012 Samuel Campbell’s only daughter Samantha walked down the aisle, his elder son Christopher graduated from university and the younger child Jason marked his 21st birthday.
Sadly, during the passing of all three milestones in the Campbell household there was a huge void — the absence of devoted family man Samuel.
His whereabouts remain a mystery that continues to baffle his family and police.
To the outside world Samuel had everything — a loving family, successful business and was popular in sporting and church circles.
Speaking for the first time since his disappearance a year ago, his wife has told how he lived for his children and how attached he was to his five-year-old grandson Troy, taking him to the beach at Portrush every weekend regardless of the weather.
And they revealed his building consultancy business was successful, despite the economic downturn, with work scheduled well into 2012.
With no trace of debit or credit cards having been used, all bank funds accounted for and Samuel retaining his cheerful demeanour right up until he vanished, the Campbell family have no idea what happened to him after they waved him off on his last bike ride.
Samuel and wife Laverne were childhood sweethearts who began courting as teenagers. She was 14, he was 16. They had known each other since they were children.
They were married 28 years ago and 19 years ago built the Kells home in which she last spoke to him before he headed off on what seemed at the time to be a routine cycle ride on New Year’s Day.
With constant reminders of her husband, Laverne said it was impossible for her to live there alone and she has temporarily moved to another address in the Ballymena area.
“I have been here since October but before then I was staying with different ones,” said Laverne at her home in the Co Antrim town yesterday. “I just didn’t want to be there on my own. I was going to bed early and every time you heard a noise you wondered if it was Sam home. I couldn’t do it. We built our home, worked hard for everything we had and lived there for about 20 years.”
She told of the daily heartache felt by her and the couple’s three children, and their constant anguish over not knowing what happened to Samuel.
Laverne also revealed Samuel missed his 50th birthday, and said their first Christmas without him was cancelled in the Campbell household.
It was a time of year he loved, she said, and he was always excited about putting up the festive decorations.
Without fail, Samuel was the first person up in their house every Christmas morning, according to Laverne. She said the festive period prior to his disappearance had been a happy time for all the family. Her husband was in good spirits on the day he went missing.
A devout Christian, Samuel had been to church in Kells that morning with his brother David.
He then picked up Laverne and they went to visit family members for a New Year’s Day meal.
After lunch, at around 2.15pm, Samuel headed off on his bike, as he did every Sunday afternoon.
He left with just his cycling gear, leaving his mobile phone at home as he always did because he never discussed work on a Sunday. He also left his wallet behind containing all of his bank cards and identification.
A fit, seasoned cyclist, Samuel would often be on the road for several hours, but given the time of year Laverne said it would have been usual for him to have returned home around 5pm.
“Sam headed off on his bike and I went to ‘keep fit’,” she said.
“I met him on the road and thought I must keep him going
about what he was wearing when he got home. He was in good form. David said there were no signs he was going to go away and not come back again.”
Come nightfall, Laverne became increasingly concerned.
She rang family members and friends asking if Samuel was with them, or if they had seen him.
“Before 7pm we rang the police because by then we had called all the ones we thought he would be at without trying to alarm them,” she said.
“The police came out... and since then, nothing.”
Despite extensive searches in the area and numerous reported sightings, the family is no closer to finding out what happened.
Laverne hit out at rumours that subsequently surfaced regarding Samuel’s whereabouts and possible reasons for him to go missing.
Laverne said the family had scoured all their personal and business accounts and accounted for all their funds, pouring cold water over suggestions Samuel had set up a new life for himself elsewhere.
Christopher said his father’s building consultancy business was thriving.
“People say about the downturn but it wasn’t as if there was no work there,” he said. “There was enough work in his diary for the next year. Big jobs.”
Prior to New Year’s Day 2012 Samuel’s daughter Samantha (23) had discussed her marriage with him, with Samuel ribbing her over the cost. He was looking forward to the big day.
With her father absent for what should have been the proudest moment of his life, Samantha was walked down the aisle by her mother in October.
Christopher (26) was also without his father on his graduation day a month later.
Younger son Jason was hopeful Samuel would return for his 21st birthday, but it wasn’t to be.
They spent so much time together both in work and outside that Jason was often referred to by other family member’s as his dad’s shadow. Despite struggling to come to terms with the absence of their father, Laverne praised her three children for their strength over what has been a traumatic past year.
“The children have been my rock,” she added.
“They have all been very strong and I have had to be strong for them.
“It’s difficult, particularly when Troy asks where his granda is. You just have to say he’s at work. It’s hard.”
Timeline of a disappearance
January 1, 2012
2.15pm: Samuel Campbell (1) heads off on a cycle ride. CCTV at his home captures him leaving the house (2).
2.30pm: He is last seen cycling past the Halfway House pub on the Carnlough Road, Broughshane. He fails to return home that evening and wife Laverne calls the police.
Mr Campbell’s bicycle is found propped against a wall one mile outside the village of Glenarm.
His bike is used in a police reconstruction (3) of Mr Campbell’s last known movements.
A three-month search (4) involving the Coastguard and RNLI, Police Air Support and Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol is carried out.
His daughter Samantha (5) makes an emotional appeal to her missing father at a Press conference. “Daddy, please come home. You know how much you mean to us all, I miss you very much,” she says.
A Northern Ireland woman takes a picture of a man she believes to be Mr Campbell in Lanzarote. Police show it to the Campbell family but it is not him. It is one of several reported sightings over the summer months.
Police issue a fresh appeal for information.