Family looking to move on after home was searched in hunt for teenager missing since 1999

A family is looking to move on after their home was a subject of weeks of police searches for a teenager missing for 23 years.

The house of St Paul's Road in Smethwick was the subject of weeks of searches by West Midlands Police
The house of St Paul's Road in Smethwick was the subject of weeks of searches by West Midlands Police

The house on St Paul's Road, Smethwick, was a hive of activity for a number of weeks as officers from West Midlands Police searched the grounds for any sight of Phillip Harris.

The 15-year-old went missing in 1999 after telling his foster parents he was going to stay at a friend's house in Northfield, with the house in Smethwick seen as a place of interest by police.

For the current occupiers of the house, who didn't want to be named, the experience of the past month has been a difficult one.

The woman living at the house described how the police had informed her a year before that the house was somewhere they might be looking to search, but was still shocked at the short-notice of the call from the force.

Phillip Harris was last seen in July 1999

She said: "I was at work when my brother called to let me know there were police on the street, which was shocking to hear, then they called me and told me I had an hour to pack up my stuff before they moved us out.

"They did explain to us what they were doing as I'd heard from them last year, but it was just shocking to get the notice to move out and very sad as you hoped they wouldn't find the boy in the garden."

The woman said she and her family had been taken to two places to stay while the police search was going on, living in hotels on Hagley Road and Harborne, but said the police had been very good to them during the whole experience.

She said: "They did a great job with us, having regular chats with us to let us know what was going on and explaining what was happening in the house.

"They did let me come in to get things as and when I needed them, as long as I gave them notice, which was helpful after being forced to leave so quick.

"We were able to speak to our neighbours as well, who were really shocked about what was going on, as it's not something that happens around here, but they were really supportive to us."

Police forensic tents were in the garden for some time

She said that since returning, she and her husband had tried to get life back to normal for themselves and their children, even though it had been a difficult experience.

She said: "I feel a sense of normality being back here, although the kids are still a little shocked about it and we've tried to make things fun for them, including planning a holiday.

"I know the police dug up the whole garden when they were searching as I do a lot of work on it, but they've done their best to make it look as if they weren't here.

"We are just looking forward now and moving on from this, although I do think it's sad news that the family still haven't got closure about the boy yet and I hope they get that one day."

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