Moment mother, 81, of man who’s been missing for 30 years broke down in tears and claimed the police were ‘determined to incriminate us’ after she and her husband were arrested on suspicion of their son’s murder

  • Steven Clark, 23, went missing 28 years ago in Saltburn on December 28 1992 
  • His parents Doris, 81 and Charles Clark, 78, were arrested on suspicion of murder
  • Documentary looks at the couple’s 17-week long ordeal before they were cleared 

By Jessica Green For Mailonline

Published: 10:31, 22 April 2021 | Updated: 12:33, 22 April 2021

A new documentary which followed a pensioner couple as they were arrested on suspicion of the 1992 murder of their son reveals the emotional moment the mother broke down and said ‘the police are determined to incriminate us’.

Steven Clark was 23 when he went missing in Saltburn, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, in December 1992, after his parents said he failed to emerge from public toilets during a family walk. In September 2020, following a cold case review, Cleveland Police arrested his elderly parents Doris, 81, and Charles Clark, 78, and searched their seaside home and garden in Marske. The couple have since been released without charge following the 17-week long investigation last year. Documentary Accused of Murdering Our Son – The Steven Clark Story, which airs on  ITV at 9pm, sees Doris break down as she suggests ‘the police are determined to incriminate us’. 

During the programme, when a mystery writer, who sent a letter about the case to police in 1999, finally comes forward, it still appears unclear whether the pensioner parents’ ‘nightmare’ will end.   Standing in her kitchen as presenter former detective Mark Williams-Thomas gives her the news, Doris is quick to break down into tears.   ‘It’s a nightmare. God, I just want it to go away,’ she says. ‘Go away, I can’t bear it. I can’t. They’re villains, absolute villains, whoever it is.’

Charles tells her: ‘Listen, don’t believe half the stuff. Anyway, it’s up to you, can’t help you anymore.’

‘It’s alright believing or not believing, it’s happening isn’t it,’ replies Doris. ‘And the police are absolutely determined to incriminate us.’

To this, Charles says: ‘We’ll have to wait for the police to come round which they’re apparently going to do, and we’ll face them when they come.  That’s the end of it. The story hasn’t changed. Did you murder Steven? Did I murder Steven? Don’t be silly.’

Earlier in the programme, an emotional Doris is once again in tears when a police letter informs them the couple they are freed from bail but still under investigation, and may be re-interviewed. She says: ‘The nightmare continues. There’s no release at all,’ before walking into her husband’s opened arms.

Doris agreed to film the documentary in a bid to find their son, who was left with a permanent limp and damaged arm when he was hit by a lorry as a toddler. The programme explores both sides of the story and reveals the intense pressure experienced by the couple forced to relive the anguish of Steven’s disappearance and face the prospect of being jailed. From having their garden dug up and house searched by police looking for a body to media speculation the couple’s unfolding nightmare is witnessed by Mr Williams-Thomas. At points throughout the weeks, Mr Williams-Thomas checks in with retired senior police officer Julie Mackay, the former Head of Major Crime at Avon and Somerset Police, who remembers the case.  She offers her insight on the police investigation and the decision to accuse Steven’s parents 28 years on from their son’s disappearance. Charles and Doris also share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic car accident when aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a severely damaged left arm and leg, as well as a pronounced limp.  Doris says: ‘He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.’

Mr Williams-Thomas says: ‘Over 17 weeks I followed Charles and Doris whilst they were accused of the murder of their son.  My approach was to be totally impartial, my questioning direct, as I unpicked their accounts and explored the possible scenarios around Steven’s sudden disappearance.  It’s a compelling real-life story, providing an intimate insight to the unique experience of this couple that is as close to a crime drama as you will ever see on television.’

Now ruled out as suspects in the murder investigation, Doris and Charles aim to get on with their lives and still live in hope that one day Steven will return to their family home.  At the time of their release from the investigation without charge, Doris said: ‘It’s wonderful. It was never going to be any other way really. It is fantastic news to get from the police. I think it has not really sunk in yet, I am sure tomorrow we will be feeling more completely ecstatic. It is a good thing to have happened.’

In September, after she and her husband had been arrested and bailed, she told reporters the situation was ‘absolutely ludicrous’. In February, Cleveland Police said the investigation into Steven’s disappearance was continuing. The force, which has never publicly identified the couple as suspects, said: ‘Two people arrested on suspicion of the murder of Steven Clark have now been released from the investigation without charge.’ 

Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Page said: ‘Officers from the joint Cleveland and North Yorkshire Police Cold Case Unit have followed a significant number of lines of enquiry since the launch of the murder investigation in 2020, which followed a review of the original case. We are continuing to investigate Steven’s disappearance and people can continue to contact us with information.  There is no proof of life and we believe Steven has come to serious harm, and the case continues to be classified as one of suspected murder.’

At the time of his disappearance, Steven was attending the Rathbone Society in Redcar, which worked with people with disabilities to improve their employment skills.

Timeline of Steven Clark’s disappearance 

  • December 28, 1992: Steven Clark is seen going into the gents’ public toilets at 3pm in Saltburn, Cleveland, while his mother goes into the ladies. 
  • When Steven doesn’t come out, his mother think he has made his own way home. 
  • A new witness has placed Steven in Marske later that afternoon, before it got dark at 3.45pm.  
  • September 1999: An anonymous letter was posted to Guisborough Police Station relating to Steven’s disappearance. 
  • September 15, 2020: Following a cold case review, it is revealed that Steven’s elderly parents have been arrested on suspicion of his murder. 
  • September 16, 2020: After being quizzed for six hours at the police station, Steven’s parents insist they did not kill their son. 
  • September 17, 2020: Police investigating murder urge the writer of the anonymous letter in 1999 to make contact. 
  • September 19, 2020: A tent is set up in at Doris and Charles Clark’s home as specialist officers begin investigations in the back garden of the couple’s home.
  • December 9, 2020: Doris and Charles Clark are bailed
  • February 15, 2021: Police confirm Doris and Charles Clark are released from investigation without charge