WHEN Jean Doolan watched her son leave her home on a typical Saturday afternoon 20 years ago, she knew she would never see him again.

She couldn’t explain why she had that feeling, but the now 73-year-old knew something was different about her only son, Richard Doolan, that day.

Richard, known as Ricky to pals, was spotted out later that night on March 24, 2001, before vanishing.

Despite, potential sightings of the 27-year-old – which Jean believes to have been false – he was never seen again.

Now, two decades on, Jean can still picture him walking away for the last time.

“That day was completely different,” she said, “he went out at night time, he was going somewhere, and I watched him walk to the bottom of the road.

“I thought he would turn around but he never did.

“I never saw him again. I knew, I just knew, I would never see him again.”

Richard was the only boy born to parents Jean and Richard Snr.

He grew up alongside sisters Julie, Anne, Josie, Bernie and Jean in Croy, North Lanarkshire.

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At the time of his disappearance, he had a handful of nieces and nephews – two of which were just six-weeks-old when their uncle vanished.

As time has gone on, the family has grown with the sisters going on to have more children and, now, grandchildren.

A “whole lifetime” has passed since Richard was last seen, his mum said.

It’s a situation they never thought they’d be in, but they’re holding on to hope closure can be found one day.

Julie, Richard’s eldest sister, said: “I feel so sorry for my mum and dad.

“After 20 years, you feel maybe they could get a bit of closure.

“I last saw him the day before he went missing and I can still picture him walking away now. I’ve always got that memory.

“My youngest son, Mark, was only six weeks old and I would be up at night with him and just cry.”

She added: “I thought all my tears had gone, but I cried yesterday.

“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years, such a long time.”

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Richard had some mental health difficulties prior to his disappearance and, while the family believe it is likely he has passed away, they always hold out hope he may return home.

Many of his sisters have now moved away from the area, some staying close by in the likes of Cumbernauld and others going as far as Dublin.

However, Julie says, her parents will never leave their three-bed “just in case” Richard returns.

Jean said: “There was no help then. God help anybody now that needs help with mental health.

“We hope that he got away and is living somewhere else.

“Twenty years is a long time, but I just hope he’s alright and enjoying life.”

She added: “I would have hoped I would have heard by now, but some people just never get found.

“It was a terrible time for young men.”

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The police continue to check-in with the family every so often and collected DNA during their last visit.

However, there hasn’t been much progress in the search for Richard since he was last spotted.

There were a handful of sightings in the days following his disappearance, but they’ve never been confirmed.

This time of year is especially difficult for the close-knit family, with Jean admitting she and her husband struggle to sleep.

However, they hope by sharing Richard’s story it will encourage anyone with information to come forward.

Sadly, the coronavirus restrictions have forced the family to pause plans for a memorial bench in Croy dedicated to their much-loved brother and son.

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As restrictions ease, they hope they will be able to reunite to celebrate what should be his 48th birthday on June 9.

As ever, the family are hopeful this year will be the one that brings answers as to what happened to Richard following the last sighting on March 24, 2001.

“I see him with wings now,” Jean said, “but we’ll always hope that he just got away and is enjoying himself somewhere.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101.