The wife of a missing man last night made an emotional TV appeal for him not to return home.
Often fighting back tears of joy, Mildred Openshaw (52) and mother of three, told reporters that when her husband Clive (52) didn't return home from a night out with mates at his local pub, she thought he had just gone to visit his mother 'as per usual'.
'I was shocked the next morning when I found his bed hadn't been slept in,' she said. 'At first I didn't know quite whether to laugh or cry, but I soon decided to laugh my socks off.'
Mrs Openshaw admitted she advertently delayed calling the police for as long as possible. 'I want to take this opportunity to thank the constabulary for dragging their size fourteens over starting the hunt for my husband.' She added:
'After three weeks, I have to come to terms with the possibility that Clive is dead. But you never know - he could walk back through that door tomorrow, so I always keep it firmly locked, just in case.
'The kids are distraught with happiness and relief and don't keep asking if their father is ever coming home. I beg anyone out there who knows of Clive's whereabouts to tell him that his family don't want him to worry. The important thing is that he never crosses our threshold again.'
Mrs Openshaw said a search party, conducted by her family and friends, had failed to find any trace of the missing man. 'We searched high and low,' Mrs Openshaw said, 'and we even checked the back yard. After half-an-hour we had to admit defeat, so we cracked open the champagne and got rat-arsed.'
A policeman spokesman said the missing man's family were 'over the Moon' at his disappearance and 'apparently hope that that's where he is, too'.
But the family were shocked when the body of a man was recently discovered in a nearby canal.
'We feared the worst,' said Mrs Openshaw, 'and cried and cried when we were told it wasn't Clive's body after all.'