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£20,000 reward over missing youth

A £20,000 reward has been put up by police investigating the suspected murder of a teenager who went missing on the Isle of Wight 16 years ago.

Damien Nettles has not been seen since November 2, 1996 when the 16-year-old failed to return home following a night out with friends in Cowes.

Earlier this year, his mother, Valerie Nettles, who lives in Texas, said she believed her son might have been killed by a drugs gang whose path he crossed.

A huge police inquiry has seen eight people arrested over the course of a year but freed with no further action, 352 witness statements taken and 2,440 documents reviewed and processed.

Hampshire Constabulary said the £20,000 is the latest effort by detectives who insist their determination to find what happened to Damien remains "unwavering and undiminished".

Superintendent Dave Powell, the senior investigating officer, said: "Our resolve remains to secure reliable evidence that can confirm his whereabouts. The biggest challenge we still face is separating fact from fiction because a vast amount and range of information about Damien's disappearance has been received.

"For the past three years, it has been important for the major investigation team to concentrate on analysing and acting upon the information already passed to police by the local community. This led us to arrest eight people who were questioned over the course of a year, and later released with no further action.

"Officers needed to focus on completing existing inquiries while multiple suspects were on bail. We did not charge anyone with a criminal offence, but those decisions were not the end of our investigation. Murder or foul play cannot be ruled out."

The last confirmed sighting of Damien was on CCTV at Yorkie's fish and chip shop in West Cowes High Street at around 11.35pm on November 2, 1996.

In February, his mother told the BBC: "People said Damien probably fell in the sea but there has been more information that he fell foul of some people. I believe he was beaten to death. He wasn't into drugs but I wouldn't be surprised if he smoked a bit of cannabis with his friends. He was more into getting his hands on a bottle of cider. Whatever happened, Damien did not deserve this. He was just a silly boy who got in the way and someone decided to teach him a lesson."

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