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Natalie Putt family: "We are now grieving"

"People are starting to accept the reality Natalie is dead and has been dead for 15 years. What we want now is to find out where she is and for her to have the burial she deserves."

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Natalie vanished in September 2003

It is an admission that has been difficult to make for the family of Natalie Putt, the young mother who vanished from her home in Lower Gornal in September 2003.

Her half-sister Rebecca Coggins says she will never fully accept Natalie is dead because of the horrors that come with it.

But after a coroner ruled in January that he was "satisfied she is deceased", following the police's assertion that they believe she was murdered, she says relatives have moved to a stage where they are now grieving for her.

The inquest brought a sense of some closure, even if Natalie's family will never be satisfied until she is found and can be laid to rest.

Ms Coggins, 42, was joined by her family as a stone was laid for Natalie next to their mother's grave in Machynlleth, Wales, this week on what would have been her 33rd birthday.

She said the laying of the stone was a "symbolic" moment for the family, who wanted to create a place for people to remember Natalie and mourn her.

Natalie was 17 when she left her home in Thornleigh, Lower Gornal, to buy cigarettes on September 1, 2003. She was never seen again. Her son was just 11 weeks old.

Extensive searches have been carried out in the years since, while the investigation was given fresh impetus in 2017 when a graveyard near her home was dug up, but the searches came to nothing.

Ms Coggins said: "We felt it was quite important to have somewhere we could place flowers for Natalie. It was a step on moving forward.

"I will never accept she is dead because it is harsh and brings the realisation she is there somewhere alone. The stone acknowledges that, for the time being, that is Natalie's place.

"We have been issued with a death certificate, it gives us a time and a place. For me the last 15 years have been a bit of a lie. When the coroner gave the conclusion Natalie was murdered on September 1, 2003 that was hard. It hit me harder than I thought.

"People are now starting to accept the reality Natalie is dead and has been for the last 15 years. What we want now is to find out where she is and for her to have the burial she deserves."

She added: "When we visited the grave we laid flowers, up until the coroner we lit candles. She was no longer a missing person, we have gone into a different phase now, we're now in a grieving phase."

Ms Coggins says the focus now is on finding Natalie and getting justice for her. She has appealed for anyone who has information, however insignificant they think it might be, to come forward.

She said: "If you know the person involved you also have that duty to do the right thing. People seem to focus on September 1, 2003 but we need to know things that happened before that - where was she, who was she seen with?

"People need to think has somebody said something, suggested something or have they seen something that didn't make sense before but now does.

"I'm not after retribution, I am after my sister, who was just 17, full of life and had just had a baby son, so we can give her the dignity of being laid to rest."