Mum of three, Michelle Gunshon, 38 (please see photo attached).
Security guard Michelle, 38, from Swinton, Manchester, was working at the NEC’s Clothes Show – lodging at a pub in Digbeth, Birmingham – when she vanished in Dec 2004.
But it wasn’t until 2012 that Martin Stafford, then 44 – a glass collector at the pub – was found guilty of false imprisonment, rape and preventing the burial of a body following a Birmingham Crown Court trial. (He fled to his native Dublin shortly after Michelle disappeared and served sentences there for rape and false imprisonment before being extradited to the UK to stand trial).
In 2013 Tracy wrote to Stafford begging him to reveal where her Mum’s body was. (But human rights legislation meant the delivery was delayed for nine months). When Stafford made no reply, Tracy requested to visit him in prison. “I needed to see him face to face,” she explains.
Sadly, last November while she was pregnant with her second child Tracy learned that Stafford (who had long term drink and drug problems) had died unexpectedly. “I burst into tears, sobbing my heart out, that he’d taken the secret to his own grave,” she says. “I was only 21 when Mum went missing but we were so close.”
Ironically, Michelle shouldn’t have been staying in the pub where her killer worked. “The original hotel where she was staying flooded – so she, and two colleagues, were transferred to the Dubliner pub.
“The night she disappeared she had a drink downstairs then went to bed at 9.30pm as she had to be in work at 7am. I rang her but could tell she was tired so said: “I’ll leave you to it, Mum. I’ll ring you tomorrow.” That was the last time we spoke.”
The following afternoon, Michelle’s colleagues called Tracy to say her mum hadn’t turned up for work. “I knew instantly that she was dead,” she reveals.
Tracy, now 32, and on maternity leave from her job as a security officer, still travels to Digbeth on anniversaries, Birthdays and Mothers’ Day to lay flowers outside the coach station where her mum was last seen.
She also spends hours walking up and down two main roads where speed cameras caught Stafford driving Michelle’s car – desperate for clues as to where her Mum could be. ‘I try to get inside his head and think ‘where did he hide her?’ If I could I’d move to Birmingham and search around the clock but I have got two little boys,” she says. “But I feel like I have let her down…” she adds sadly. “I don’t want my boys having to fight for this when they are older so I will never stop looking.
“This has destroyed our family. If Helen’s Law had existed when Stafford was convicted he might have confessed before dying. This law might be too late for me but it will prevent other families from going through this ordeal.”