The news is full of the tragic mystery of the missing aircraft, lost, it is believed, in the southern Indian Ocean… maybe… The media is full of speculation and photos of dreadful seas, despairing relatives and friends, seemingly confused officials. There are many theories as to what might have happened, but maybe no-one will ever know and those poor people who are waiting in Beijing, or Kuala Lumpur, or in other parts of the world, waiting and waiting to find the answer… which might never come in their own life time.

On the radio this morning was a report that a man who has been implicated in the murder and disappearance of an Irish woman, Jean McConville, is being brought to trial. Her family – she has ten children – have lived with the same agony of not knowing what happened to their beloved mother. They do know she is dead, but have no knowledge of where she may be, and they just want her to come back to them so they can lay her to rest properly. She was not the only one who vanished in Northern Ireland, ‘Disappeared’ but in actual fact murdered and disposed of, the youngest was a boy of seventeen.

In the newspaper yesterday was the sad report of a family who had been waiting fr news of their son, a nineteen year old man who had gone missing adventuring in Cambodia; remains had been found and his family said they just ‘wanted him to come home’. Their ordeal is not over; the remains were not his so the family waits on to find the truth about what happened to him.

It is the not knowing and the hope against hope that maybe, just maybe a good outcome will happen… the passengers and crew of the plane will be found alive, against all odds… he ‘disappeared’ will reappear, the lost boy will be found living with a tribe of Cambodian people.

The idea of people ‘vanishing’ for whatever reason has always challenged writers and story-tellers; Andrew O’Hagan wrote a very powerful non-fiction book about it, ‘The Missing’ which explores many aspects of absence. In my story of Frederico Milan, Frederico’s wife leaves him; he believes she has gone to be with another man, her parents believe that Frederico had something to do with her disappearance. There are always and literally two sides to such situation, that of those left behind, and the unknown side of the fate of ‘the missing’.

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