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Reporting bad news

Since April last year, the South London Press and Mercury newspapers have worked closely with Bernadette Williams to find her teenage daughter Hannah.

Nearly a year later, Kent police announced the sad news this week that they believe a body found at a cements work in Kent is that of the youngster.

Reporter Peter Harrison (right) has been following the case of Hannah Williams since April – and here he describes how he became personally involved in the story.


I was a trainee reporter on our sister paper The Mercury when Bernadette Williams came to the door of our Deptford offices. A distraught woman who was turning to me for help – her daughter, Hannah, vanished without trace.

My hope, perhaps naively, was for a tearful reunion.

But as the weeks passed by we came increasingly baffled, the police had no leads, I was none the wiser and Bernadette was becoming increasingly anxious.

Like many of her friends I even tried to call her mobile, but to no avail.

It became a frustrating process, desperately clawing for new angles to keep the story in the spotlight.

Bernadette showed me Hannah’s room, it was, and I believe still is, like a shrine to her youngest daughter.

There were neatly arranged pictures of boy bands and dolphins, her favourite animal. On the dressing table was her makeup, a vast expanse of nail varnish and lipstick, surrounded by jewellery, all neatly laid out in this small back bedroom overlooking the pocket garden.

Hannah was no high achiever academically, but her room was more clutter free than most girls of her age.

The months passed and Bernadette grew more frustrated and I was failing in my attempt to reunite mother and daughter. When the funeral of Hannah’s gran passed without trace of the teenager I became even more worried that wherever she was, wasn’t of her choosing.

Then the description of a body found in Kent was released – when I heard what clothes she was wearing I knew it was Hannah, I was sure of it. I’ve never met her, but over the past 11 months I’ve heard a lot about her.

She had her problems, but then so do a lot of teenage girls, but people liked her and I know she’ll be greatly missed.

Do you have a story about the regional press? Ring 0116 227 3122/3121, or
e-mail pastill@nep.co.uk