Father of woman, 26, who vanished in 2011 pleads for answers

Father of woman, 26, who left behind her six-year-old daughter when she vanished in 2011 pleads for answers after her case was initially ‘overlooked’ for two months ‘because she was a drug user and sex worker’

  • Lana Purcell was 26 when she disappeared from Camden, north London, in 2011
  • She had fallen into a life of drugs and sex work and vanished without a trace 
  • Father John said police were slow to investigate because of her chaotic lifestyle 
  • Her family have launched an appeal for information on the Missing Podcast
  • There’s a £20,000 reward for information which brings case to a conclusion

The father of a woman who was last seen 10 years ago has launched a fresh appeal for information, saying: ‘I don’t want to die not knowing what happened to my daughter’.

Lana Purcell was 26 when she disappeared from Camden, north London, in January 2011. A single mother to a six-year-old girl, she had fallen into a life of drug use and sex work before she went missing and her family believe her chaotic lifestyle meant her case was initially overlooked by police. 

Now, a decade on, her father, sister and daughter have appeared on the Missing Podcast to ask the public for help in finally finding out what happened to Lana. 

The Metropolitan Police is also offering a £20,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction or to Lana’s whereabouts. 

Vanished without a trace: Lana Purcell was 26 when she disappeared from Camden, north London, in January 2011. Pictured, a photo of Lana released by police

‘There has to be someone that knows something that could help,’ her daughter Megan, now 15, said on the podcast. 

‘Please come forward and help us find her, or what happened to her. And if it is the worst, at least we know that, and we’re not here left wondering: “What happens if she is alive”.’ 

Lana grew up a much-loved daughter in a tight-knit London family. 

‘Lana was a lovely child growing up,’ her father John recalled. ‘Her nickname was Barney Rubble because she was always getting into trouble. 

‘She was a lovely kid, playful, a little but mischievous but she was a beautiful kid. She’s never been nasty to anybody. She’s always been a good girl. 

‘She always had a really good life growing up… She was loved by both her parents, her nanny, her aunties and uncles, her brothers and sisters.’ 

Lana dreamed of finishing school and working with children, her family revealed. But her life took a different turn when she fell in love for the first time as a teenager.  

Her sister Davina said: ‘Lana told me she had a boyfriend one day, and we were all quite shocked. She would go missing with him every weekend, partying, which was new for Lana at that time… I know he was a drug user, and she did drugs with him first. That’s how it happened.’

Concerned: Lana’s father John Purcell and her daughter Megan Purcell, who have appealed for information. Lana had fallen into a life of drug use and sex work before she went missing and her family believe police initially ignored Lana’s disappearance because of her chaotic lifestyle

Over time, Lana began spending more time with her boyfriend, and less time with her family and friends. Lana was also becoming dependent on drugs. 

‘We tried everything we could to stop her but that was unsuccessful because the drugs she was taking were quite strong,’ John said. ‘It was very hard for her to come off them. They were very bad times for me because I couldn’t control her.’ 

The relationship with her first boyfriend came to an end in 2003, and the family became hopeful that it would be enough to break the cycle. But she quickly moved on to another boyfriend and began repeating the patterns of destructive behaviour. 

In 2004 it became clear to the family that Lana’s drug use had taken hold. 

Can YOU help find Lana Purcell?  

The Missing Podcast is asking anyone with information to come forward, particularly:  

  • Anyone who was in Camden, who may have seen Lana in January 2011.
  • Anyone with information about Lana’s whereabouts. Did anyone want to cause her harm? Did anyone speak about taking her away?
  • Friends of Lana – what do you know? Were you afraid to speak back then? Perhaps relationships have changed – could you speak up now?

Visit the Missing Podcast for more information. 

John recalled one instance when he was on holiday with his wife. ‘Someone phoned her and said they had seen Lana taking crack. I thought, “that can’t be right”, so we were straight on a train and home to see what we could do with her. 

‘We thought she had only just started, that we’d be able to help her, but apparently she hadn’t just started. We must have been so dumb not to have noticed it.’

The family booked Lana into a residential rehab facility and she responded well to the mixture of talking therapies and controlled withdrawals.

However while she was there, she also fell in love with a man who was battling his own drug addiction issues. 

‘He seemed like a nice guy at first but now we know he’s not,’ John said. By spring 2005, Megan was pregnant. Her daughter Megan was born in December that year.    

‘We thought it would be good for her and she was very happy when she had Megan,’ John continued. ‘She was a different person for a little while. We were all happy, the whole family.’ 

Lana and Megan and moved into a small flat in Kentish Town, north London, where there was enough room for a nursery and a nearby park.

John and his wife would visit most days to help out and Lana would take Megan to her grandparents of tea and sleepovers. 

Once again, however, Lana was soon back on drugs. Davina began looking after Megan, although Lana would still visit her daughter and sister. 

The last time anyone in the family saw Lana was over the festive period of December 2010. Megan was six years old. 

Speaking on the last time he saw his daughter, John said: ‘Lana came round to bring presents to mine, she didn’t really stay long. We knew why but we didn’t criticise or judge her for it. 

Much loved: Lana is still missed by her father, sister, daughter, and other family members

‘I told her that I loved her and that I’d see her soon… I didn’t realise and the time that it was going to be the last time. I didn’t realise.’ 

Davina added: ‘Lana spent New Year’s Eve with us into the early hours of New Year’s Day. We said goodbye, she left. I spoke to her I think a week after. And that was the last time I spoke to her.’

Due to Lana’s chaotic lifestyle and drug habit, there were periods of times when she had fallen out of contact with the family. 

But two weeks into 2011 Lana’s flatmate got in touch with family and said they should report her missing because she hadn’t been seen for two days.  

The family were initially not overly concerned but her flatmate insisted, giving the impression that this time it was different. 

‘The girl said quite adamantly, “you have to report her missing”,’ John said. ‘Obviously I was starting to get a bit worried. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Once I couldn’t get hold of her, my belly started going. I started having butterflies, some problem in my stomach, telling me there was something wrong.’ 

John reported Lana missing at Kentish Town Police Station, where she was well known to many of the officers due to her history of shoplifting on the West End to feed her habit, but he felt they didn’t take his concerns seriously. 

He continued: ‘I went to the police station several times, and even one of the officers said, “this is strange for Lana because we all know Lana and she hasn’t been in any trouble, or been picked up by anybody, for a while now”. That should have sent a red flag to them. But it didn’t.’

The concerned father believes police took a long time to act because of Lana’s chaotic lifestyle. 

A missing persons inquiry was not launched until two months after her disappearance, meaning officers lost the opportunity to access phone records and data that might have pointed to a last known location. 

‘I find that unforgivable,’ John said. ‘They could have taken it seriously.’ 

The family took matters into their own hands, putting up posters across north London, speaking to friends and following flimsy leads. They often put themselves in dangerous places or situations in hope of finding her. 

Desperate for answers: Theories about what happened to Lana include that she was a victim of trafficking, was murdered, or chose to disappear to escape a threat of violence. John said he just wants to know. Pictured, John with his granddaughter Meghan last year

Davina recalled: ‘We were walking the streets at night, putting ourselves at risk. You feel bad going home and going to bed because you worry where is she. “Is she cold?Is she hungry somewhere? Is she hurt?’

Police’s £20k reward 

In September last year the Metropolitan Police announced a new reward for information in Lana’s case. 

Detective Inspector Mike Stubbins, who is one of the lead investigators, said at the time: ‘I am very confident that there will be people who know full well what happened to Lana but have not yet spoken to us.

‘But during my time in the police service, I have seen many examples of years passing and then eventually the crucial piece of information we need is given that allows us to solve a case.

‘People change, allegiances change, or people who were once frightened of what they think might happen if they spoke to the police eventually do speak to us in the strictest of confidence. And I believe that can and will happen with Lana’s case.’

The last confirmed sighting of her is believed to have been on or about January 17 2011 and it is believed she may have been heading to the West End/Soho area of London. 

Theories about what happened to Lana include that she was a victim of trafficking, was murdered, or chose to disappear to escape a threat of violence.    

John said he just wants to know. ‘If you know something about what’s happened to my daughter, please, please come forward,’ he said. ‘There’s no need for you to be involved with the police you don’t have to be. 

‘Anybody who’s got kids will understand, anybody who’s got someone they love will understand. When someone goes missing out of your life that’s a big part of your life, it’s something that stays with you forever.’

In September last year the Metropolitan Police announced a new reward for information in Lana’s case.  

Detective Inspector Mike Stubbins, who is one of the lead investigators, said at the time: ‘I am very confident that there will be people who know full well what happened to Lana but have not yet spoken to us.

‘But during my time in the police service, I have seen many examples of years passing and then eventually the crucial piece of information we need is given that allows us to solve a case.

‘People change, allegiances change, or people who were once frightened of what they think might happen if they spoke to the police eventually do speak to us in the strictest of confidence. And I believe that can and will happen with Lana’s case.’

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