In 1999 a pregnant mother went missing from her home in Deal, and it took more than 20 years for her husband to be brought to justice for her murder.
The discovery of the remains of Debbie Griggs in the garden of her husband's former home in Dorset is just the latest chapter in a story that shocked a community, as Rhys Griffiths reports.
Mother-of-three Debbie Griggs disappeared from the family home in Deal on May 5, 1999.
After the alarm was raised a huge search was launched, with detectives saying how unusual it was that the 34-year-old would choose to walk out on her three young sons.
But it was 24 hours after she went missing that her husband, fisherman Andrew Griggs, actually called Kent Police to report her disappearance from their home in Cross Road.
He calmly told the operator: "She's suffering from depression, um, postnatal depression, um, we've got three little boys and she's just wound up too much.
"She is pregnant as well, she's been under the doctor for depression, um, for a while."
Griggs also told the call handler that Debbie had taken £250 and her white Peugeot, but said he couldn’t recall the number plate.
Police visited Griggs at home later that night. He was prompted to present paperwork on the vehicle, but claimed he didn’t have a recent photograph of his missing partner, who he had married in 1990.
Officers who attended the house in Cross Road noted Griggs appeared calm, despite his wife being missing for more than a day.
"When we asked why it was so late that he reported it to us he said his wife had gone missing on previous occasions and returned unharmed," a PC who spoke to Griggs that night later told a court in a statement.
Griggs' suggestion to police that his wife had a habit of "going walkabouts" meant that initially the expectation would have been that she could still be found alive.
Appeals were issued for information about her whereabouts, and just days after she went missing her car - a white Peugeot 309 - was found abandoned little more than a mile from the family home.
Debbie’s blood was recovered from the vehicle, but no further trace of her was ever found. Her bank accounts sat dormant and she did not interact with the health service or social security.
'Bombastic and bullying'
Andrew Griggs told police that on the night his wife went missing he had come home at about 7pm and fallen asleep in the living room while she was in the kitchen.
"I nodded off and the next thing I knew was when Debbie woke me up shouting and screaming," Griggs said.
"She was saying things like 'it’s all right for you to come home and fall asleep. I am at home all day with the boys, 24 hours a day, seven days a week'.
"She was behind me and walked out to the kitchen and the back door and drove off.
"It was a matter of seconds and she upped and went out the door. She had her coat on and flung her bag over her shoulder as she went out."
The couple's relationship had been strained for some time.
Although she had said her husband had never been physically abusive, in a diary entry Debbie - who trained as a nurse and worked for a time in care homes until the birth their first child - described Griggs as a "bombastic and bullying" man.
"If things do not go his way he gets very nasty," she wrote.
Extracts from an affidavit written by Debbie were also later read out in court.
"Everything we have together is in fact his, and I am only allowed to enjoy anything that is a joint matrimonial asset by reason of being with him," it read.
"He does not let me go out by myself. His needs come first. He tells me I am sick and mad in the head."
'I was groomed by him'
It did not take long for police to make Griggs a prime suspect in his wife's disappearance, and the case soon developed from a missing persons investigate in to a murder probe.
Although there was a lack of any evidence giving a reasonable expectation of convicting Griggs, it emerged there was a clear motive for wanting Debbie off the scene.
She had learned that her husband was involved in a relationship with a 15-year-old girl, and she did not seem willing to cover up for him.
The couple ran Griggs Freezer Centre in South Street, Deal, together at the time she disappeared, and it is believed he feared he could lose half if she divorced him over the involvement with the teenager.
On March 2 1999, days before Debbie vanished, Griggs set their joint business bank account up in just his name.
He claimed this was because she had taken the company cheque books, but under cross-examination the prosecutor told the court he had done this before she took them.
A court later heard how the underage girl felt she was "groomed" by Griggs, and at his trial years later she yelled out "he's a paedophile" while under cross-examination.
'Help find our mum'
Debbie's three sons - Jeremy, Jake and Luke - never gave up hope of finding their mother.
The boys, who were aged six, four and 18 months at the time she disappeared, always stood by their father and believed he was innocent.
But in 2019 Griggs - who had remarried and moved with his sons to Dorset - was charged and put on trial accused of murdering his wife and disposing of her body.
A statement from Senior Crown Prosecutor Nigel Pilkington in March 2019 said: “In December 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service received a file of evidence from Kent Police relating to an allegation of murder against Andrew Griggs.
“Following a review of the evidence, we have authorised Kent Police to charge Mr Griggs with the murder of his wife, Debbie Griggs, in 1999."
At the trial, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC argued that the concealing of the whereabouts of Debbie’s body was "the most aggravating factor" of the case.
A jury at Canterbury Crown Court found Griggs guilty in October 2019, with a judge accusing the sailor of dumping Debbie's body at sea.
In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Spencer told him: "Only you know how you killed her and where you disposed of her body.
"The jury convicted you on the most compelling circumstantial evidence.
"You told lie after lie in the witness box, just as you did at the time of Debbie’s disappearance, to her family, her friends and to the police, and just as you have for the past 20 years."
'Cruel and humiliating'
The judge went on to tell Griggs he had no doubt that he had groomed the 15-year-old.
"From the late summer of 1998 through to the spring of 1999 you were in a full sexual relationship with that young girl, as she described to the jury in evidence," he told Griggs.
"You groomed her. You took advantage of her emotional vulnerability. You were obsessed by her. You were seeing her five days a week.
"It was cruel and humiliating for your wife to see you flirting openly with this girl under her very nose.
"You and the girl each denied there was any sexual relationship when Debbie challenged you both. The girl was afraid to speak out because you had told her that if she did, everyone would hate her."
Andrew Griggs was sentenced to serve a minimum term of 20 years for the murder of his wife.
Mr Justice Spencer told Griggs: "You have shown no remorse whatsoever. True remorse would have been shown only by a guilty plea and by disclosure of where you concealed the body."
Debbie's father, Brian Cameron, said in a victim impact statement at the time: “My wife and I could never understand how she could just disappear and there hasn’t been a day go by when I haven’t wondered what happened to her.
"We both (deceased wife Pat) thought she was dead, we organised a memorial for Debbie when she was deemed legally dead.
“I think Debbie was Pat’s best friend.
“As much as she tried I don’t think she was ever quite the same when Debbie disappeared."
In 2020, the former couple’s three children launched a social media page called ‘Find our Mum’.
They said they believed their dad was innocent and their mum was still alive.
On the Facebook page they asked for information to help locate her.
They wrote: “This page has been launched for the sole purpose of finding our mum, Debbie Elizabeth Griggs (Cameron) who we believe was not murdered by our father but is still alive.
“It has not been set up to cause upset or distress.
“Every human on this planet is permitted to have an opinion. That is their right.
“We respect that right. All we ask is that you in return respect ours.
“We are only interested in finding our mum."
In July this year, Griggs failed in an attempt to appeal his conviction.
Today, Kent Police revealed Debbie's remains had been found buried in a garden in Dorset - 23 years after she went missing.
They were found in the property Griggs had moved to in 2001 with his sons, after officers acted on "information received".
Further tests will now be carried out to establish the cause of her death.
Det Chf Insp Neil Kimber, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘It is now more than 20 years since Debbie Griggs was murdered by her husband but we have never given up hope of one day finding her remains and giving her loved ones some closure.
"Andrew Griggs denied being responsible for his wife’s disappearance but this discovery is further proof that he was lying all along, causing even greater anguish for everyone who knew and loved Debbie. Whilst they continue to mourn her tragic loss to this day, I hope they can take some comfort in the knowledge that she can now be laid to rest.
"We will continue to keep Debbie’s family updated on the progress of our ongoing enquiries and provide support to them at this difficult time.’
'Sadness and happiness'
Helen Griggs Cheeseman, Debbie's best friend, said in a statement that the news brought about a mix of "sadness and happiness".
She said: "As you can appreciate, this is a deeply sad time for all the family and friends that knew Debbie.
"Debbie was my best friend from the age of 12 until the day she was murdered by her husband.
"With regards to the recent news of Debbie being discovered in the garden of Andrew Griggs' new home in Dorset; myself, Debbie's family and friends are in tremendous shock and disbelief.
"There are feelings of sadness and happiness that Debbie's body has finally been found and that the truth we have all known from the start, that Andrew Griggs murdered Debbie, the truth is finally now known, and can’t be denied anymore.
"My heart goes out to Debbie's three boys at this devastating time of sadness."
Debbie's sister, Wendie, also said today: "Yes it is true. My sister has been found.
"In short, two years after he murdered her, he moved house and actually took her with him.
"Then buried her in the backyard.
"PM confirmed it definitely her, plus her unborn (18-week-old) son.
"Lots of unbelievable nasty details.
"But for me, the most unbelievable is that he took her to the new house.
"I truly don’t think any murderer has done that before.
"No, I’m not on the same planet as everyone else, but I’m doing OK considering that I've actually been discombobulated with all this."