Torment of Leeds woman after mystery disappearance of childhood sweetheart

Ben Clarkson and Rachel Peatfield
Ben Clarkson and Rachel Peatfield
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Childhood sweethearts Ben Clarkson and Rachel Peatfield have rarely spent more than a night apart and in recent months had started planning to wed and start a family.

The couple’s dreams of lifelong happiness have been thrown into turmoil in the last nine days, however, following Ben’s sudden and unexplained disappearance.

Best friends since they were 11 and together for the last six years, the couple, both 22, moved from their Leeds homes to York when Rachel began a degree in education studies at St John’s University.

Ben, a music shop guitar specialist, had been on a night out in the city with friends on Saturday, March 1, when he failed to return to their home.

Police appeals and searches of the River Foss have failed to trace him.

Rachel, a full-time nanny and part-time shop worker, is working with the charity Missing People and launched her own leafleting campaign in a bid to get answers.

She said: “He’s my best friend and the love of my life.

“It has been really hard time and it’s still really tough, but we have had such a positive response from the public that it has made me carry on. I just want to know where he is.”

The couple met in their first year at Temple Moor High School in Leeds.

Both naturally quiet, they had an instant connection, but it was not until they started sixth form at the school that they became a couple.

Rachel, originally from Whitkirk in Leeds, said: “We sat next to each other and had similar interests and ended up spending a lot of time together, going to the same parties.

“When I moved to York Ben came over to visit and he pretty much moved in. From then he used to commute to Leeds for work.

“The longest we’ve been without contact before now is about a night. We talk all the time, even when we’re not together.

“We had talked about marriage and children and he had even said marriage might be on the cards in the near future.”

Ben, originally from the Halton Moor area of Leeds, had been to Fibbers nightclub in York and was last seen at 3.40am on Sunday, March 2, in Layerthorpe, near to the junction with James Street.

Rachel said his disappearance was completely out of character. She said suggestions that it mirrored the disappearance of student Megan Roberts – who was found dead in the River Ouse on the same day – was “unfortunate”.

“I don’t know what’s happened,” she said.

“If something violent had happened to him we’d know about it. I just don’t know what to think.”

York police yesterday appealed for information about two men who could help the investigation. One was seen walking along Stonebow, near Fibbers, at the same time Ben was last seen.

The other spoke to him in the smoking area of the nightclub a short time before he left. Anyone with information should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Inspector Neil Drummond added: “Ben, if you see or hear this appeal, please get in touch with your family, friends or the police straight away. There aren’t any problems. We all simply want to know that you are safe and well.”

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