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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

5 crimes that influenced my writing of THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER

This article can be read in full in Crime Spree Magazine. This is an abridged version.

On the surface, The Girl In The Missing Poster is about Leila Hawkins, a police cadet who disappeared, aged 19, after leaving her dad’s birthday party during a storm. It’s about far more than that, though. It’s about the emotional impact her disappearance had on her whole family, but particularly her identical twin, Stella.

Even 25 years on, Stella can’t move on. How on earth does a person move on when there are no answers only questions about their loved one’s fate? Fascinated and horrified, I began actively researching various crimes, starting with missing persons and unsolved crimes and moving on from there.

As well as exploring this highly emotive theme through a first-person narrative, The Girl In The Missing Poster also features chapters told in the style of a documentary transcript – because Stella taking part in a documentary is what makes someone get in touch about Leila’s disappearance. Within the framework of the documentary, I have used real crime statistics that are current at the time of writing. It felt natural to me, as I’d spent more than 20 years as a national journalist. Mainly, though, I did it to try, in my own small way, to give a voice to some of the thousands of victims of crimes that go unsolved, the missing who are never found, and the loved ones left at home, forever wondering and never getting answers.

Here are five of the crimes that influenced the writing of The Girl In The Missing Poster:

1 – Jill Dando

To find out how a documentary about her murder sparked the idea for THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER read the Crime Spree Magazine article.

2 – Renee and Andrew MacRae

Discover how Britain’s longest-running missing persons’ inquiry, dating back to the 1976 disappearance of Renee MacRae, 36, and her three-year-old son, Andrew, is linked to THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER by reading the Crime Spree Magazine article.

3- Roman Sosa

Texan man Roman Sosa was murdered and raised from the dead – now who could resist reading more about a story like that? Not me. To discover more, read my Crime Spree Magazine article.

4- Arkady Babchenko

If you thought Roman’s story was extreme, this goes to a whole new level. Find out about Arkady Babchenko by reading the Crime Spree Magazine article.

5 – Levi Bellfield

Levi Bellfield is a British serial killer who for a brief time had women in south London terrified, as he targeted blondes, attacking them from behind to smash them on the head with a hammer. I lived in the area he hunted – and I’m blonde – and remember vividly the fear of that period every time I walked home from the train station after work or a night out. To find out how that impacted on my writing, read my Crime Spree Magazine article.

24 June, 1994 – Nineteen-year-old Leila Hawkins runs from her father’s birthday party into the stormy night wearing her sister Stella’s long red coat. Some say she was crying, others swear they saw her get into a passing car. Nobody ever saw her again.

Present – This time every year, on the anniversary of that fateful night, Stella decorates the small seaside town she grew up in with pictures of her beautiful missing sister. But after twenty-five years, is it even worth hoping someone will come forward? Perhaps the upcoming documentary will spark people’s memories by reuniting all the guests who were there the night Leila went missing.

As old friends gather and long-buried secrets begin to surface, the last thing Stella ever expects is a direct response from someone claiming they took Leila. They want private details of Stella’s life in return for answers. But as the true events of the night of the party play out once again, who is lying? And who is next?

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