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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Missing Eddie Gibson's parents still live in hope

Missing Eddie Gibson's parents still live in hope

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Eddie Gibson's parents are back, and they're still looking for their son. The 19-year-old

Leeds University honors student vanished in Cambodia in October 2004.

Mike Gibson by a poster of his missing son Eddie at a January 9 press conference at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Mike and Jo Gibson are now offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Eddie's

"safe return." And they have provided puzzling clues - including a detailed

diary, a former Cambodian girlfriend and a double life - that further confound the

mysterious disappearance.

"We are really at a dead end," said Eddie's father, Mike Gibson. "The

reward is an attempt to jog the memory of anyone who may have seen him."

Investigations by both the Cambodian and British police have failed to discover facts

about Eddie's whereabouts or fate.

The Gibsons have made five trips to Cambodia to publicize the situation and appeal

for information. So far, their journeys have been futile.

"If we don't put all this energy into the search; we would have a real sense

of guilt," Mike Gibson said. "We have a duty to him to do as much as we

can."

The most important clues to Eddie's disappearance may be his parents' own recollections.

Academically, Eddie was a high achiever, receiving scores far above the UK average.

His good looks and natural charm made him popular. Self confidence gave him a certain

magnetism, Jo Gibson said.

"Everyone wanted to be with him," she said.

But there was another side to Eddie.

"He was a very secretive person," Jo Gibson said. "Everyone who knew

him has said that they only ever felt they knew 60 percent of him; that they only

ever knew part of what he was doing."

After retracing Eddie's steps, the Gibsons explained why they think "it is plausible

that he is still out here" at a Phnom Penh press conference on January 9.

Eddie had taken a year off between school and university to backpack around South

East Asia with his friends.

"He was very organized," Mike Gibson said. "He organized his friend's

gap year trip and he would just disappear [from his friends for a while.]"

Eddie's journal, kept during the trip, has since been used by British police investigators.

"The diary he kept was meticulous in its notes," Mike Gibson said. "It

was very detailed. There was some really bizarre stuff in there."

Eddie returned to Britain and spent the summer of 2004 working and saving money,

before heading off to Leeds University to begin pursuing a joint honors degree in

International Management and Asian and Pacific studies.

"I took him to Leeds and that was the last time I saw him alive," Jo Gibson

said. "He seemed fine there, he has his best friend [living] next door whom

he had known since he was five. He seemed fine until two or three days before he

vanished."

Three weeks into his university term, and just three days before he vanished on October

4 2004, Jo Gibson received a call from Eddie late on October 1 - a Friday night.

"He told me 'I just wanted to hear your voice'," Jo Gibson said. "Then,

on Sunday he called both Mike and me separately to tell us he wasn't happy with the

joint honors degree. He wasn't enjoying the management part."

Later that evening, the Gibsons received another call from Eddie. He reassured them

that he was fine. He claimed he had spoken to his tutors and changed his course.

He warned them that they wouldn't be able to contact him for a few days because his

mobile phone battery was broken.

"We later found out he had planned to leave before then, he had a [plane] ticket

for Saturday, but he didn't leave," Mike Gibson said. "I think the stuff

about his course was rubbish, but we caught him in the middle of deciding to leave."

Eddie's indecision didn't last. He left the country on October 4. On October 6 -

a Wednesday and Eddie's brother's birthday - the Gibsons tried to contact him, but

his phone went unanswered. They called his neighboring friend: Eddie had not been

seen for a few days.

"We waited Thursday, Friday, Saturday and by then we were really worried,"

Jo Gibson said. "We rang Leeds university and asked if they could check the

room; they broke in and there was no sign of him - he had disappeared."

Mike Gibson said he knew intuitively where Eddie would have gone.

"In my heart of hearts I knew then that he was back in the Far East," he

said.

Three weeks passed with no word from Eddie. Mike Gibson's prediction was soon proven

correct when the British Embassy in Phnom Penh called to tell them Eddie had entered

Cambodia at Poipet.

The silence was broken by three emails in rapid succession - on October 20, 22, and

24, 2004.

"The final series of emails were quite articulate. They were explaining why

he had run away," Jo Gibson said. "But there was one serious omission -

he never said where he was."

Eddie wrote that he would be home on a Thai Air flight on November 1. The Gibsons

drove to London's Heathrow airport to meet the plane.

"We stood there watching the doors - watching as all these backpackers came

through, until there was no one else left," Jo Gibson said.

Thai Airways confirmed that Eddie had not boarded the flight in Bangkok. A month

later, Mike Gibson and his elder son Elliot flew to Bangkok and travelled to Cambodia.

There they found confusing details of Eddie's final known movements.

"He kept two addresses and used two names for the whole time he was in Cambodia,"

Mike Gibson said. "Ami, his Cambodian girlfriend, knew him as Micky Deller."

In keeping with his tendency to "disappear" from travelling companions,

Eddie spent his last weeks in Cambodia either with Ami in Phnom Penh or leaving her

unannounced and heading off to Poipet with Khmer friends, Mike Gibson said.

During his time in Phnom Penh, Eddie paid for a funeral for Ami's father. A video

of the ceremony shows him looking "healthy, alert, bright and beautiful,"

Jo Gibson said. She views this as evidence that her son had not slid into a drug-fueled

decline.

On October 24, the day he sent his final email, Eddie told Ami that he was leaving

to go to Bangkok to get some money and that he would be back in three weeks, Mike

Gibson said. He has not been seen since.

The Gibsons see Eddie's behavior over his last few weeks in Cambodia as consistent

with his overall character.

"I always felt Ed lived in two dimensions," Mike Gibson said. "[This

fits with] the fact that he kept two addresses in Cambodia. For the 15 days he was

here he was so busy. It makes you exhausted just looking at it."

Mike Gibson said a psychological profile of Eddie done by Nottingham Trent University,

a standard part of the admission process, was described by the university as one

of the more unusual profiles they had seen.

"Out of our three boys it would have been Eddie who went missing," he said.

"He was always getting into trouble."

Psychologically, Eddie hated confrontations, particularly emotional confrontations

with his parents, they say. He was horrified by admitting he was wrong.

"So to leave university after three weeks to run away and then come back with

no money would have entailed a terrible sense of failure," Mike Gibson said.

"He would have hated that, and to be honest, I was never convinced he would

come home."

After two years and four months, his parents are still holding out for his eventual

return.

"It is our small glimmer of hope," Jo Gibson said. "But then there

is so much fear - and every day you ask yourself the same questions over and over...

we just can't move on."

Anyone who has information on Eddie, can phone 016 379938 or 023 427124. Calls will

be confidential.

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