Inquest launched into Cricklewood man who vanished without a trace

No one has seen or heard of Lee Sheppard in eight years

A man who vanished without a trace eight years ago was looking forward to starting a family, an inquest has heard.

Lee Sheppard, of Cricklewood Lane and originally from New Zealand, was 26 when he set off for work at European Metal Recycling (ERM) plant in Scrub’s Lane, Harlesden, on the night of January 31, but was never seen again.

A police investigation failed to resolve the mystery.

However, private investigator Ron McQuilter, who was hired by Mr Sheppard’s family to look into the disappearance, revealed he believed the keen Rugby player had died in an industrial accident at the plant, where he worked as a supervisor.

He said it appeared he had been rendered unconscious and was caught up in machinery when the plant started up the following morning.

Barnet Coroner’s Court heard how Mr Sheppard, who moved to Brent with his wife Juliet in April 2002, found out they were expecting their first child just days before he disappeared.

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Recalling Mr Sheppard’s joy at the prospect of becoming a father, Juliet Sheppard, who now has a 7-year-old son called Jaden, said: “Lee was very excited. He quickly came up with a name for the baby.

“He fussed over me like I was ill or something – he was very excited.”

In a diary entry a fortnight before on January 6 2003, Mr Sheppard wrote of his desire to become a father.

He wrote: “I cannot wait to be a dad. It will not all be plain sailing, but it is something I want dearly and I must get a move on because everybody is getting ahead of us.”

But the 26-year-old never heard the doctor confirm the pregnancy as he disappeared on January 31 – the day of the appointment.

The couple, who grew up in the same small town called Pahi, both came from close knit families, and planned to return to New Zealand in May to raise their child, and talked of building a home together.

Mrs Sheppard said: “Before we left to come to the UK we thought we wouldn’t stay more than a couple of years because we were keen to start a family. Come 2003 we were panning to go home that year.”

Mr Sheppard confided in his diary that he missed his family deeply. In an entry dated January 10 2003, Mr Sheppard wrote: “I cannot wait until I get home to see Isaac and Amy…I miss you all and cannot wait until we meet again.”

The couple were planning to fly out to Canada to attend a friend’s wedding in May before returning to New Zealand.

Mr Sheppard’s family flew in to attend the inquest.

The inquest continues.