Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Met officer from Belfast and his search for missing teen Ruth Wilson

Belfast man Liam McAuley is part of a new film which looks at the cold case of Surrey girl Ruth Wilson who disappeared 23 years ago

By Leona O'Neill

A former police officer from Northern Ireland is part of a new documentary examining the quest to solve the cold case disappearance of a teenager.

Ruth Wilson vanished in 1995 after travelling to a beauty spot in Surrey, England. Fifteen years later Liam McAuley, a former north Belfast man who had just retired from the Metropolitan Police, picked up a newspaper, read her story and became enthralled.

Mr McAuley (58) began investigating the disappearance, and has joined forces with an English journalist called Martin Bright, and produced the documentary Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl, in the hope of shining a new light on the seemingly forgotten case.

Liam retired from the police nine years ago. A year later, while perusing a Surrey newspaper, he came across the Ruth Wilson case. The 16-year-old girl had gone missing in Surrey in 1995, and he was immediately intrigued.

"I happened to be reading a local paper and came across the article about Ruth," he said.

"It just didn't seem to add up to me instinct ively. This was a 16-year-old schoolgirl, who has just disappeared and nothing has been heard of her ever since. We are now approaching 23 years.

"When I read the article for the first time, I just had that feeling that something was just not quite right. A 16-year-old just can't disappear.

"She comes from a rural village. She wouldn't have been street smart like her city cousins.

"She's left home in the clothes that she's standing up in. She had a bank card that was not activated. She was dropped in a rural part of the country and that was the last that was seen of her.

"You have to think there was something not quite right there."

The 30-minute film, which is on YouTube, works from the standpoint that Ruth is no longer alive. Surrey Police and the Wilson family opted not to contribute, but many of Ruth's school friends, along with her ex-boyfriend, did come forward.

"The police in the area remained tight-lipped and were no help. It was all very odd," he added.

The film claims Ruth had been unaware that her mother, who had died when she was young, had taken her own life until shortly before she disappeared.

It also features interviews with Ruth's friends who claim she had discussed running away.

Later, the film suggests there is potentially more information available which has not yet been explored.

Liam left Northern Ireland as a teenager and spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police and Counter Terrorism Unit, focusing solely on Islamic Terrorism.

"I grew up in north Belfast," he explained. "I lived in what was classed as the 'murder triangle'. I lived all through the Seventies, going to school hearing all the tragic stories from friends and some of the pupils at school, what happened to them.

"Where I lived I had friends on both sides of the community. When you grow up somewhere like that you think this is your world, this is it. But it was a case of do you get stuck with it or try and carve on with your own life?

"I was resitting my A-levels at 19 years old in 1978 and saw an advertisement for the Metropolitan Police in England.

"I had grown up watching The Sweeney and thought it was amazing, that I wanted to do that. There was an opportunity there and I applied for it.

"It was quite easy in those days. I got an interview within a month. In another month I was in. It was a really fast process.

"I went to London and I never looked back. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed.

"I think of my old school chums and my old friends and I hope life has been good to them and I wish them well.

"It was a case that when I came over to England I couldn't go back very often, in fact the only time I ever went back was for funerals.

"There were funny days. A police officer was a police officer in those times. You could become a target.

"If anyone knew what I was doing I didn't want any of my friends associating around me to maybe be targeted."

Liam started as a 'Bobby on the Beat' around the West End of London before moving to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where he spent 26 years of his career.

"I spent years at Scotland Yard in a crime fighting unit," he added.

"I worked for the Counter Terrorist Unit there for the last six years before I retired.

"That unit was set up specifically to deal with the emerging threat of Islamic Terrorism.

"Ironically, coming from Belfast, I have never worked on counter terrorism operations regarding Northern Ireland. I wasn't interested in that side of things, because that was one of the reasons I left Northern Ireland."

Mr McAuley explained how he worked on some of the Met's biggest cases.

He added: "I did work on the 7/7 bombings in London in which 56 people were killed in terror attacks during the morning rush hour.

"I was on the bomb scene for 12 days with my colleagues and we took care of 14 bodies and 750 body parts.

"Then we followed on to the 21/7 attack two weeks later in which terrorists targeted the travel networks again, and the Glasgow bombings.

"I think what I saw in Belfast as a boy really prepared me for what I saw there. Some of my colleagues were shocked. I had seen it before.

"I worked on all of those, as well as high profile cases like the Millennium Dome raid in 2000 and others I can't talk about."

Liam says the purpose of the documentary will be to highlight Ruth's plight and try to get to the bottom of what happened to her.

"The police say they have done all the inquiries that they can," he says. "And it's a case of sitting back and seeing if anyone phones.

"Martin Bright had done an article on the case and an interview with Ruth's parents. He was never really happy about the circumstances surrounding Ruth's disappearance.

"I contacted him two years ago and asked him to take part in the documentary. It was to highlight Ruth's plight.

"A whole generation has grown up knowing nothing of her in Surrey. And people just forgot about it."

Liam's documentary 'Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl' can be seen on the Real Stories YouTube channel

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