West Midlands Police has told the heartbroken families of David Spencer and Patrick Warren the force remains committed to helping them find closure.
David and Patrick, better known as the Milk Carton Kids, were 13 and 11 when they went missing from Chelmsley Wood in 1996.
The tragic pair were never found and today, December 26, marks a quarter of a century since they vanished.
Relations between the families and the force have been strained for many years and senior officers have come under fire for their handling of the investigation.
Cops were accused of not taking the case seriously due to the working-class background of the boys, who were described at the time as “streetwise”.
Among those critical of the police operation is Birmingham City University criminologist Professor David Wilson, who shone a light on the case with a recent Channel 4 documentary.
Talking to BirminghamLive this year as an unofficial dig to search for the boys was launched, Prof Wilson said the police needed to take seriously the link between the missing boys and child killer Brian Field.
Field was jailed for life in 2001 for the kidnap, rape and murder of Surrey schoolboy Roy Tutill in 1968.
He had been living near Patrick and David’s homes – working as a gardener and odd-job man – and was a regular drinker at pubs in the area when they disappeared.
But despite being questioned by officers in 2006, West Midlands Police have said there isn’t enough evidence to charge him.
“I want them to take seriously what the documentary uncovered – that there is quite clearly 100 per cent a link between Brian Field and Patrick Warren and David Spencer,” Prof Wilson said.
“That link can stand any kind of scrutiny. And if they don’t see that link, it seems to me that would be a failure.”
Former Birmingham Mail journalist Leda Reynolds, who has investigated the disappearance since the two boys vanished in 1996, has also been highly critical.
She compiled a dossier and sent it to the force in 2006. Until that point, the disappearance of David Spencer and Patrick Warren, who were 13 and 11, had been treated only as a missing person inquiry.
Leda’s files, which also drew a link between the boys Brian Field, prompted the force to upgrade the investigation to a murder probe and sparked a dig in Solihull in 2006.
Also speaking in the aftermath of the 2021 dig, she said a public inquiry was needed into the “appalling” failings of the force.
“I think there should be a public inquiry into West Midlands Police’s handling of the case from the very start and other deaths associated with Brian Field and the handling of those,” she said.
“25 years after the boys disappeared we are no further forward with the case.”
Message to Milk Carton Kids families from West Midlands Police
After a quarter of a century involving several reviews and both official and unofficial search efforts, West Midlands Police said in the lead up to today’s landmark anniversary that detectives were ready to work the case again if new information came to light.
The force said it remained “committed” to bringing closure to the families of David and Patrick and said its thoughts remained with those affected by the tragedy.
A spokesperson said: “Despite extensive inquiries and numerous appeals, David Spencer and Patrick Warren have sadly never been found.
“The case has been reviewed several times and detectives remain ready to re-investigate should new information come to light.
“We have been in touch with the boys’ families and those involved in the recent searches at Damson Wood Lane.
“We remain committed to bringing closure for the families of David and Patrick whose lives have been irrevocably changed by their lengthy disappearance.
“Anyone with information regarding this very sad case and not yet contacted us, please do so, we will always act upon new information.
“Please contact us via live chat on our website, or call us on 101.
“Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this tragedy, particularly at this extremely difficult time of the year.”