Sitting on the sofa of his flat, Alan Vaughan takes a drag from his cigarette and looks at a photo of his wife and son.
The image of Mary and Kyle on the mantelpiece is one of the many mementos that decorate his living room, reminding him of a happier time when the Vaughan family was just like any other.
But Kyle disappeared in 2012 and Mary died in 2018, leaving Alan as the only surviving member of the family unit.
Every week, he visits St Mary’s Church in Newport, where Mary is buried, and there’s a plot with a headstone bearing the names and photos of both his loved ones.
It’s Alan’s dream that one day he can bury his son’s body and reunite him with his mother, something Mary was cruelly prevented from doing in life.
Kyle Vaughan, from Newbridge, was just 24 when his smashed-up silver Peugeot 306 was found on the A467 between Risca and Cross Keys at 11.45am on December 30, 2012. But he wasn’t in it.
Despite searches and a murder investigation launched by Gwent Police, which saw eight arrests made but no charges brought, Kyle has never been found.
In 2016, the former Cwmcarn High School pupil known to his friends as ‘Jabbers’ was presumed legally dead by a High Court judge and his parents received a presumption of death certificate.
Describing the knock on the door that every parent dreads, mechanical engineer Alan said: “The police woke me up three in the morning saying I was arrested for drink-driving and for leaving the scene of a collision.
“They had found a silver Peugeot smashed up on the carriageway and I didn’t own a Peugeot but then the penny dropped. It was Kyle’ car.
“I went down and saw the car and thought ‘How did he walk away from that?’ I have seen accidents like that before where people have died.
“How the hell I kept on going I don’t know, we didn’t sleep for four days with worry and we went out searching for him.”
In 2013, three people were arrested on suspicion of Kyle’s murder, two were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and three were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, but all have since been released without charge.
Two years later, Mary and Alan received the horrendous news that Mary’s liver cancer had become terminal, which made the search for their son even more desperate.
They launched an appeal, in which Mary spoke to the media and pleaded with those who had information about the whereabouts of her son’s body to come forward, but to no avail.
Alan, 59, said: “We were just going through the phases and not talking about (her illness) but in December 2015 we went to see a specialist and unfortunately there was nothing more they could do. They told us to go and enjoy ourselves and that’s what we did.
“We went on holiday for six months around the country and to see her smile was priceless. We went on a couple of speed boat trips and she loved her two-pence arcade machines.
“We started off in Bournemouth and we finished in Llandudno. She really enjoyed it. Her face was the best ever.”
The couple had been together for 31 years and Alan had always said he should be the one to die first.
“I previously had a few heart attacks and I said to her ‘I’m winning’,” he said.
“Mary had a really good sense of humour. Kyle and his mum used to fight like cat and dog but he would always say ‘Mam I love you’. The two of them idolised each other and it’s a shame Mary didn’t find out where he is. That hurt her more than anything and it’s hurt me, knowing you can’t do anything.”
Two days after the anniversary of her son’s disappearance, Mary died on new Year’s Day 2018 due to complications arising from liver cancer. She was 56.
Despite the medical cause of death, Alan said he believes Kyle’s disappearance contributed to his wife’s ill health.
He said: “I always said Mary didn’t die from liver cancer, she died of a broken heart. With Kyle I could call him 20 times a day and he wouldn’t answer me but he would answer his mum straight away.
“The bond between the two of them was unreal and so strong. He was her only son.
“Mary never complained about the pain of the cancer. The Sunday before she died it was Kyle’s anniversary and she held on, but two days later she passed away.
“The hardest part for me was to walk out of the hospital knowing I had to leave Mary there. That was the hardest thing I have had to do.
“I sat there every day watching Mary dying and I couldn’t do anything. When you watch your partner dying you feel useless but I tried to make her happy and that was the best I could do.
“I just tell Kyle to look after his mother but he doesn’t need telling. At Mary’s funeral my other son saw me looking round the churchyard when he asked me what I was looking at. I told him that Kyle was there and he was watching.”
As well as having to deal with the death of the love of his life, Alan finds the burden of dealing with his son’s disappearance even greater now he is on his own.
“When Mary was here, if there was something that concerned me, we talked about it or if we tried to do another appeal she was there to share the load”, he said.
“I don’t show my emotions to anyone and I put a brave face on. Every morning I give her picture a kiss and talk to her. I tell her what has been happening when I go to put flowers on her grave. It’s going to be her birthday on Saturday and all she’s going to get this year is a bunch of flowers.
“Some days I think I’d rather be with Mary than alive. Six years ago we were a family and six years later I’m single. People say why don’t you find another lady friend but I don’t want anyone else because I’ve got Mary.”
Since eight suspects were released without charge in 2015, there have been no updates in regards to the investigation into Kyle’s death.
Alan said there had been no contact with Gwent Police since Kyle’s memorial service in 2016, and there had been no new leads relating to the location of his body.
He said: “I felt after Kyle’s memorial that we couldn’t tell you who was in charge of the investigation. I was told the person who we had been dealing with was no longer my family liaison officer. Unless they phone me to say they have found Kyle’s body I have no contact with them. It’s quite disheartening.
“I can’t knock Gwent Police but I can also say they were slow to react. If it wasn’t for me and Mary shouting at the police, no one wanted to listen to us. It felt like banging your head against the wall some days.”
He said he was concerned that the police moved too slowly at first and that, as a result of the family being asked to stop searches, several days of evidence was potentially lost.
“We could have had our son’s body back if Gwent Police moved sooner,” he said.
“Finding Kyle is the thing that we need to do. The Crimestoppers reward is still there, they just need to say Kyle is at A or B on the map and the police can go and find him. The people who know what happened to him are too scared to say anything.”
At the time of his disappearance, Kyle was working for Unilever in production technology and was well thought of in the company.
He was a rock music fan and would regularly put gigs on at TJs in Newport by booking bands from as far afield as Germany.
Speaking about his son, Alan, who lives in Croesyceiliog in Cwmbran, said: “When it came to work, Kyle always tried to give 110% all the time and if he was stuck he would give me a call and I would tell him what to do. If Kyle was still here he would be going round the world now.
“Kyle was a party animal and he loved astonishing us. He did a lot of charity work for cancer charities because of his mum and he was very brainy with computers. He also taught himself to play drums.
“He had a charisma about him with all his friends and he was like a magnet. We had a party for his 21 birthday and 91 friends of his turned up so me and Mary were sat outside on the kerb.
“He loved his music and he would go to see bands like Green Day with his mates.
“He used to wind us up as well. I bought him a music centre for his birthday and he would put it up on full blast, I would turn it off so he would turn the internet off until I put it back on.”
Despite the years passing since Kyle’s disappearance, Alan’s pain at not knowing what has happened to his son and his determination to find his body has not diminished.
“He made us so happy for 24 years and for me he will never get old. If he walked through that door now he would still be 24 years old even though he will be 31 this year,” he said.
“The worst part is, when you lose a loved one from natural causes, over time your pain eases but when someone is murdered you’ll never get over it. You can’t realise the enormity of it because your brain doesn’t shut down and you’re awake all night.
“I dream about Kyle being found and knowing that I couldn’t protect my son. I take the blame for that because I should have protected him but he went out on the Saturday and never came home. When someone has been murdered and nobody is paying for it that hurts.
“Six years ago I stopped living. You get up and go to work and you’re ill every day because of the stress knowing that one day you might get a phone call saying they have found your son’s body. You’re always looking at your phone for texts or missed messages from the police.
“What his death did to our family was give us both broken hearts and stress and worry. And you wake up every morning to do it all again.
“Knowing that Mary and Kyle would be together again, you can’t put that into words how I would feel. It would be upsetting but I would also feel elated and so relieved.
“I want to find Kyle before I pass because Kyle is our son and he doesn’t deserve what happened to him and neither does Mary.”
A spokesperson from Gwent Police said: “The investigation into the disappearance of Kyle Vaughan is very much a live investigation, and investigating officers are still looking into lines of enquiry.
“Contact with Kyle’s family has decreased following the memorial for Kyle in 2016 following the family’s wishes to be left to grieve in peace.
“The investigation was originally dealt with as a missing person enquiry, however following investigations and information received, was later dealt with as a murder enquiry.
“Regarding searches, the family and friends of Kyle were advised that, for health and safety reasons, professionally trained search teams would be used, especially in more remote or difficult terrain.
“We would encourage anyone with information relating to the disappearance of Kyle to contact us by calling 101 or by sending a direct message to our Gwent Police Facebook and Twitter social media pages.”