What Happened To Ruth Wilson?—She's Been Missing For 25 Years

Mary Holman

It's been over 25years since Ruth Wilson vanished without a trace. Was she just a runaway teenager, or was there more happening behind closed doors that the family refused to disclose?

Ruth Wilsongetsurrey.co.uk

Early Life

Ruth Wilson was a young British woman born on the 31st of January 1979 in Betchworth, Surrey, England. At the age of 4, sadly, her mother, Nesta, passed away. A few years later, her father, Ian Willson, married a second wife named Karen. It appears the arrival of Karen wasn't blissful, and the kids were not happy about it.

As they grew, Ruth began running away from home due to unknown reasons. One of her friends, Ben, expressed that a month before Ruth disappeared, she had stayed with him at his house for few nights and was adamant she did not want to return to hers.

Another close friend of hers, Catherine Mair, told detectives that Ruth had previously pleaded to move in with her as soon as she settled in her new home at Sheffield. Catherine's mom also added that, a few weeks before her daughter relocated, Ruth had stayed over for few nights and painfully disclosed that she didn't want to go back home but never gave any reasons why.

However, her parents dismissed all claims that she was a runaway teenager and unhappy in their home.
A few weeks after Mair relocated, Ruth vanished without a trace.


Ruth was a beautiful girl blessed with many talents. Amongst them was singing, playing the guitar and piano, which landed her a part-time job in a music shop. During her spare time, she loved reading, riding bike rides and playing music.

Blessed with a motherly love landed her many babysitting jobs, making her the most popular babysitter in her hometown. With all these good things happening around her, what was happening behind closed doors that pushed the young woman away?

Could her mother's mysterious death be the cause? Maybe these are questions we will never have answers to.

After Nesta passed away, Ruth had been told that her mother had mistakenly fallen down the stairs, tripped and died, but the death certificate proved otherwise. It recorded that Nesta had committed suicide by hanging on the 10th of December 1982. Some argued that the family was trying to protect the young girl from knowing such horrific information.

Nevertheless, things were never the same again once Ruth knew the truth. The trust between her and the family had crumbled. She solely embarked to London to examine her mother's death certificate, hoping to find the missing details. Nothing is known of the outcome as she never shared it with anyone before her mysterious vanish.


One Saturday evening, Ruth had finished work at the music shop and met up with her ex-boyfriend Will and their friend, Neil Phillipson. They expressed that everything looked normal as they sat and enjoyed their Indian meal, sharing laughs and giggles.

After the meal, Ruth offered to cover the whole bill and jokingly said, "something to remember her by". A mere statement they didn't put too many thoughts into until the sad vanishing news.

The following day, Ruth attended church as usual and stayed behind for a handbell practice. After she headed for a youth group in Dorking, which she was actively involved in. ln wrapping up her day, she passed by her ex-boyfriend's house for dinner, and nothing seemed off at all.

Monday, the 27th of November 1995, looked like a typical working day for most people and students. Her father and stepmom had left early in the morning to prepare their schools for opening as they both worked in the Education sector and left Ruth and her young sister Jenny to catch the school bus together.

According to Jenny, they both prepared for school and at the last minute, Ruth changed her mind and said she wasn't going anymore. Though puzzled by the sudden change of mind, Little Jenny never thought anything malicious would come out of it.

“I wasn’t entirely surprised because she was in the sixth form, and she didn’t always come in for the whole day. I thought it was a bit strange that she left it to the last minute to tell me, but that was all.”

Shortly, her ex-boyfriend Will stopped by to offer her a lift, which she also declined but promised she would see him later. Sadly, that was the last time he saw or heard from her.

At around 11.30, Ruth took a taxi to Dorking and purchased flowers from Thistles Florists on Dorking High Street. She left them behind and instructed the shop owner to deliver them to her stepmother Karen in two days.

From there, Ruth headed to the Dorking library until 4.15 pm, then grabbed a taxi from the railway station to a local beauty spot called Box Hill. The driver dropped her off near a pub called Hand in Hand at around 4:30 pm.

During the driver's interview, he expressed that Ruth's behaviour seemed off. She had stood still while the rains were heavily pouring instead of crossing over to the pub to shelter. Though troubled by this strange reaction, the driver headed to his next customer but kept his eyes on the review mirror, watching her until he couldn't see her anymore. That was the last time Ruth was seen alive.

Her father expressed his regrets on how he had spoken to her that morning. "I remember being annoyed with her and said something like, "Out of my way. I'm in a hurry." I'll always regret that those were the last words I ever said to her.". Any clues on what might have happened to her?

The Search

The day ended, and both parents headed home without expecting any bad news. Later that night, they learnt that Ruth had not gone to school, and neither was she home. With the time ticking, the parents could not wait any longer. They called the police and reported her missing.

During the phone call, the possibility of being a runaway teenager was discussed, but somehow the father was convinced it was different this time. She wasn't at any of the friends she used to go to every time she fled from home, and none had heard from her. A missing person case and search began.

Police headed over to where Ruth was last seen with sniffer dogs, helicopters, volunteers, and also heat-seeking equipment but to no avail. Two days after her disappearance, a lovely and expensive bouquet was dropped to Karen, previously ordered by Ruth in Dorking, but shockingly no message on them. Just a blank card.

One of her best friends, who knew her very well, interpreted the silent message as "sticking two fingers up" to the stepmother. However, the family quickly dismissed the theory.

The search progressed, and four days later, three letters were found hidden, and empty packets of paracetamol tablets and a half-empty bottle of Vermouth. The details contained in them have never been disclosed to the public but are believed to be her last words and farewell to family, close friends, and ex-boyfriend Will. Though the information was never shared, it is speculated that the family agreed it was her handwriting.

Because Ruth had previously asked to move in with Catherine, police headed to her new apartment in Sheffield and thoroughly searched for Ruth but came out empty-handed. As a grieving friend, Catherine was a bit frustrated that they saw her as a suspect but at the same time understood there were only doing their job.

During the search in her house, Catherine told police that though she had never visited Ruth's family home, she knew without a doubt how unhappy her dear friend was in that home.

“She was unhappy, really unhappy. She cried with me about things. She didn’t want to be there. Just why is not clear. “She was secretive about that. She didn’t go into details”

Police continued searching, but this time possibly for a body. The first speculation was that, since alcohol and tablets were found together, Ruth could have committed suicide, but with the body still missing, that remains speculation to date.

Five days after her disappearance, the Surrey police searched extensively and appealed to any departments for help. The response was tremendous and heartwarming. Sixty volunteers, including local public members, school friends and colleagues, wardens from the National Trust, and the fire and rescue team all came out in large numbers, but it was still all in vain. No sign or clue of where Ruth might have gone.

One of the police officers updating the family, Mark Williams-Thomas, expressed that nothing concrete came up despite the extensive day and night searches. There was no sign of her being murdered or having committed suicide. What he believed was that whoever took her was also not a stranger.

“From the experience I have had, I would suggest one of two things occurred. She either went up there to meet someone and has subsequently gone away, or she went there and died in some way."said Thomas.Was his intuition right or wrong, l guess we will possibly never find out.

Ian Wilson and stepmom Karen appeared on Television hosted by the popular show "This Morning" They were confident that Ruth was still out there but scared to return home. However, they refused to elaborate on that statement and instead pleaded for her safe return.

Where was Ruth

With the media pushing her case, many people outside Dorking began looking for her. On the 6th of October, 1996, one newspaper reported that someone identical to Ruth had been seen on the outskirts of London five days before though it was never confirmed.

A year later, CCTV footage captured a young woman believed to be Ruth on Dorking newsagent's shop two miles from Box Hill. According to the newspaper shop owner, the young girl had requested to buy one of the newspapers and got upset after being told one had sold out. With the footage circulating, on the 2nd of January 1979, her parents, Ian and Karen, confirmed that it was her. If so, where was she heading, and how was she surviving since her bank cards had never been used from the day of her disappearance?

Twenty-five years after her disappearance, some close friends have reported spotting signs of her but are not sure. The leading superintendent of the Surrey police force, Jon Savell, said

"There are five explanations for Ruth Wilson' disappearance; A tragic accident, abduction, suicide, murder, or that she had absented herself to start a new life.

Some people have reported seeing her as far as Canada, though never confirmed. The mystery remains unsolved. What happened to Ruth Wilson?





Please note this story was originally written and posted by me on Medium

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