Searching for Debbie Warren

The police found a collection of newspaper articles on Debbie Warren's disappearance, two cupboards filled with sewing supplies and three dozen handmade dolls with the missing girl’s face on them, but there was no body. There were also no signs that anyone else had lived in the basement aside for Stephen Bowman, a 65-year-old pensioner from Huddersfield who had been crucified by local media as a key suspect in the investigation of the young girl’s disappearance. After the excitement over new developments in the case had died down, even the wildest tabloids were unanimous. The doll maker should be set free.

(…) Mr Bowman’s refusal to seek legal counsel and to utter a single word to the police on the weeks following his arrest was cited by officers as one of the reasons for the delay in releasing him. “If he’s not guilty, why doesn’t he speak?”, read the headline of one of the best-selling local newspapers at the time. All letters to the editor echoed the same suspicions on the days that followed. However, when the coverage of the case reached national newspapers for the first time since Debbie’s disappearance the previous year, the doll maker’s silent plea found unexpected support.

(Excerpt from a publisher’s review proof of Searching for Debbie Warren. Publication date: TBA)

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“It is quite evident that the sensationalism of tabloids and the incompetence of law enforcement has made a victim out of this old, troubled man, who most certainly suffers from a series of mental conditions.

His aphasia is a clear symptom of the unreasonable amount of stress he has endured for the past three weeks, having been removed from his house and thrown into the spotlight of blood-thirsty local media.

(…) Furthermore, Mr Bowman’s attachment to the news is often seen in cases of early onset dementia. Patients who feel sanity slipping through their fingers tend to collect items such as newspaper articles as a way of trying to grasp reality.

(…) Some follow sports compulsively; others collect decades of weather forecasts. If Mr Bowman is under arrest for obsessing over the case of this missing girl, shouldn’t we all be sharing a cell with him? Don’t we all share the same blame?”

(Excerpt from an op-ed by psychologist Graham Smith on The Times, published two weeks after the doll maker’s arrest)

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Warren family withdraws lawsuit over sales of missing girl dolls

Following the release of 65-year-old doll maker Stephen Bowman from police custody, lawyers of the Warren family have declared that they will not continue to pursue legal action to ban the sales of dolls inspired by newspaper photos of their missing daughter, Debbie.

The demand for the handmade toys skyrocketed following unproven claims that the doll maker had been involved in the girl’s disappearance a year ago. Although the sale of the items was temporarily banned during the investigation, auction sites have registered prices of upwards of £2,500 for a single doll.

Mr Bowman declined to comment on his plans for future sales, but anonymous sources claim that he will continue to sell his work to private collectors.

(Excerpt from a news article from The Guardian, published two months after the doll maker’s arrest.)

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“The dolls make me feel that my daughter is still in this world” — Olivia Warren, mother of missing girl Debbie, on her recent purchase of a handmade doll by craftsman Stephen Bowman.

(Quoted from Olivia Warren’s interview to The Daily Mail, six months after the doll maker’s arrest.)

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ALIVE AND IN DANGER?

In a surprising twist to the investigation, local physician claims to have evidence that Debbie Warren is still alive

Owner of five of the coveted handmade Debbie Warren dolls, physician and toy collector Nigel Flynn allegedly spent more than two months mapping differences between dolls before coming to the public with bold claims.

(…)”The nose and ears are the most obvious, but you can spot these signs everywhere”, observes Dr Flynn, pointing at one of the items in his collection. “This is not the face of a four-year-old girl copied from a newspaper picture. The girl who inspired these newer dolls must be five, at least.” (…) The physician also noted that the facial expressions in the lifelike dolls could show signs of shock and mental distress.

The allegations have been fueling online conspiracy theories about the involvement of controversial artist Stephen Bowman in the girl’s disappearance.

(…) Debbie Warren’s family declined to comment on speculations about the case. The paper attempted to reach out to Mr Bowman for a statement, but the artist could not be found.

(Excerpt from today’s edition of the Huddersfield Daily News, published eighteen months after the doll maker’s arrest.)

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I write short stories. I also write about writing. If I'm procrastinating on both, I write about why I haven't been writing. E-mail: danbelmontwriter@gmail.com

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