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Jo Yeates and Serena Beakhurst: A tale of two disappearances

If you ever happen to go missing and would quite like to eventually be found, I have put together this handy checklist to help you figure out whether you can expect the media to help lead the search for you:

1. Are you male? Forget it. Boys equals boring and missing men don’t sell papers. Come up with another plan.

2. Ok, so if you’re female, then that’s a good start. Now you’d better be attractive and under 30. Come on, who really cares if old ugly women die?

3. Now, are you white? Obviously the media deplores racism of any kind – it’s just a fact that bad things only happen to white people.

4. How middle class are you? Do your parents scrub up well enough to make tearful televised pleas for your safety? If anything about them screams ‘chav’ then you ain’t getting airtime.

If you slip up on any of these points then I’m afraid your only hope is to badger some celebrities into Tweeting about your disappearance. Then the journalists might take notice.

Don’t believe me? Since Joanna Yeates went missing from her flat the weekend before Christmas her story has made the front page of every national paper. At the same time, 14-year-old Serena Beakhurst had been missing from her home in Tulse Hill, South London, since 15 December.

Serena’s disappearance didn’t make a single national media outlet until the beginning of the year. Her friends and family started a Twitter campaign which was picked up on by Stephen Fry, Rio Ferdinand and Simon Pegg, suddenly making her story ‘newsworthy’.

Within a few days Serena was found safe and well and her family, via Facebook, thanked the media for their role in helping find her.

It’s sad to think that if the story had never had the celebrity angle it would never have made the national press, and Serena could potentially never have been found. But if the story had been picked up straight away, like the Jo Yeates case, then her family may have had her home safe in time for Christmas.

So why was her disappearance initially ignored? Difficult to say but, unlike Jo, Serena is mixed race and from a working class background.

Coincidence? I’ll leave that up to you…

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About the Author

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I am a journalist living in Bristol, UK. My work has been published in The Independent, The Guardian, Dazed and Confused, Mixmag and DJ Mag, amonst others. Drop me a line at

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