Best friend of Karen Milsom who disappeared makes emotional appeal

Best friend of British mother Karen Milsom, 52, who disappeared from her home in France two years ago carrying 6,000 euros says it ‘hurts her heart’ not knowing where she is and urges anyone with information to come forward in fresh appeal

  • Karen Milsom vanished almost two years ago in May 2019 from home in France 
  • Case shocked family, left French police baffled and deeply affected her friends
  • Best pal Claire McDermott struggled to make sense of the facts, or move on
  • Appealed to listener to offer any help you can in solving case once and for all

The best friend of a British mother-of-two, who vanished in France a year ago and whose car was found abandoned nearby, has made an emotional appeal for answers.

Karen Milsom, 52, left her home in the Charente region of South of France with some clothes and 5,400 euros after an outburst in the house she shared with electrician husband Steven. 

However, a mysterious text message sent a month later and the reappearance of her car long after she disappeared has resulted in a series of different theories about what happened next: Has Karen come to harm? Or is she living a new life, and perhaps too embarrassed to return to her old one?  

Now, her best friend Claire McDermott has told how she struggled to make sense of the facts, or move on – and has appealed to listeners to offer any help they can in solving the case once and for all.   

Speaking on The Missing Podcast, Claire urged: ‘Just let me know, let anybody know that you’re okay and we can either take it from there, pick up where we left off or we can leave it. It would be entirely up to you.  

‘Just let us know that you’re okay, that you’re safe. We miss you. We miss you desperately. We just need to know that you’re okay.’

Mother-of-two Karen Milsom (pictured), 52, who was born in Bristol, left her home in the Charente region in August last year – and hasn’t been seen since

The family car was found at Ruffec Station 25 miles away three weeks later after a tip-off

Karen was down, and in a rut, before she vanished – and an argument with her husband led to her wanting a few days to herself. 

‘Before she left, she was very bored with her life,’ explained Claire. ‘I think really she was going through the menopause and that was tough for her. She’d had two or three. 

She was also looking after an old lady – that was her job. And this old lady was really quite rude to her at times. There were times when she would just think, what am I doing? Why am I doing this?’

‘Then they had an electrical fire at home, and this is all within a couple of months before she left. She was getting angry quite quickly and just feeling like she was on edge. Everything was a bit too much.’   

Claire recalls how in 2019, after a build up of different factors, Karen was a little more volatile, slightly more on edge.

‘She felt like she needed to just get away,’ explained Claire. ‘She said, “I’ve booked a week to go and stay with my dad.” She was taking the boys and so I thought that’s really good. But when she came back, she didn’t feel like she’d had that restful time.’

However, it seemed that nothing could shake the feeling Karen had of not being quite satisfied.

Then, on Monday 19th August, Claire received a call from a friend of hers saying Karen hadn’t turned up for work that morning.

WHO CAN HELP? 

Date of Disappearance: May 20th 2019

Age at time of disappearance: 52

Last known whereabouts: Charente, France

Who can Help: Have you seen Karen, in France or elsewhere in Europe, since May 2019?

Karen is likely to seek out English speaking communities – if she’s working elsewhere she may be giving a different name.

Were you in the Charente in May 2019 – could you have seen Karen then, did you take any photographs which she could be in the back of? Did you see her car, or a woman resembling Karen’s description?

‘It was just all a bit strange,’ recalled Claire. ‘So I said to my friend at lunchtime I’ll try to find Karen, but she didn’t answer. So I found Steve. And that was when he said to me she’s decided she needs space. She wants to be left alone.’

Claire is adamant it felt very normal for Karen to just take herself away and want some time alone.  

One day away turned into two, and then three, but still, she didn’t panic because there was another detail about Karen’s disappearance which added fuel to the idea that she was ok. 

On the weekend before she vanished, Karen and her husband Steve had argued. 

Steve explained she’d been angling for a fall out – over not very much. However, when Karen left, she didn’t go empty-handed.

‘I can’t remember the exact amount, but it was something like 4,000 euros from Steve that he’d given her and she had 2000 euros in cash herself,’ explained Claire. ‘My theory then when I was told how much it was, was that she’s not just gone for a couple of days.’ 

But Claire did send the occasional message on the off-chance that Karen would see it and reply – and on 14th September, four weeks after going missing, that’s exactly what happened. 

‘I just sent her a message to say, “I know you want to be left alone but just a quick message to tell you we love and miss you very much. Obviously we would love to hear back from you, but if you can’t or don’t want to for now, that’s fine. I just hope you will one day soon.’

Claire continued: ‘She replied saying, “Hi, Claire, missing you too. We’ll be back in December to explain things.’

The message was signed off in the usual way, with the letter K and three kisses. 

‘That was what convinced me because she would sign it K kiss, kiss, kiss,’ explained Claire. ‘Now I realise anybody could have looked through the hundreds of messages that we had and seen. That was exactly the way she would. So if somebody wanted to pretend it was her, that would have been a very easy thing to do.’

Karen Milsom and her family had moved to the Charente region 15 years ago to live (pictured) 

With the sense of unease spreading, Steve notified the police and it wasn’t long before police presence grew, and specialist officers were brought in, including forensic teams and search dogs.

But five weeks after Karen had vanished, the police were baffled. 

‘There were times when I would just sit in front of the detective in floods of tears,’ said Claire. ‘He’d say to me, “we’ve got nothing concrete that we can give you. All we can say is we have no confirmation that she ever left that house. No traces of any forensic evidence at all.” 

‘The other scenario they came up with is that she’s gone off with somebody and has made a new life and left this whole life behind her.’

But neither theory made any sense to Claire. Another possibility that the police had to raise was the awful suggestion that Karen could have taken her own life.

‘I would never have thought that of her,’ said Claire. ‘Certainly, definitely not. ‘It became a worry because her mum had committed suicide. When she was a teenager, she never talked about it. She never wanted to. She said she’d moved on. It wasn’t an issue to her.’

She continued: ‘But when you know that you then start to worry. Is that something that she felt she had no choice and had to do?’ 

The investigation stalled, with no leads, but then, somewhat out of the blue, a development. When Karen had left she’d apparently taken the car with her that hadn’t been found. 

In France’s rural roads, there were no cameras to catch a glimpse of the number plate or alert authorities. So it was a huge surprise when Karen got in touch with Steve and told him to collect the car. 

 The family car was found at Ruffec Station 25 miles away three weeks later after a tip-off (pictured)

‘The car turns up at the local train station and she’d sent a message to Steve saying you can come and get the car – and so he did,’ explained Claire. ‘So we were thinking well, check CCTV then and see where she went.’

‘But there’s no CCTV at that train station or no trace of anywhere that she’s been.’

Investigators learned that in the first few weeks, Karen hadn’t travelled far. Her phone, when it had pinged mobile masts, had been in the same region. But exactly how close – isn’t reported. 

Now, it’s been two years since Karen Milsom disappeared. The questions over where she went and what happened remain unanswered. And the toll on Claire, as well as everyone who knew Karen, remains heavy.

‘I want to know whether it’s bad news or good news,’ said Claire. ‘I need to know because the not knowing is absolutely horrendous.’ 

‘If she is somewhere and just doesn’t want to come back or doesn’t feel like she can come back just let us know that’s how she feels. I’ll take it. Even if it means I never get to see her again for the rest of my life. As painful as that would be I’ll take it. 

‘I’ve tried thinking that she will never come back, thinking that she is dead – and it hurts too much. Then I’ve tried thinking I have no proof that she’s not coming back and that keeps me going.’

She continued: ‘I listened to a voicemail of hers today, which is the first time I’ve heard her voice since she left. As lovely as it was because she was laughing and it was in reply to a voice message that the little girls had left on her phone saying how much they were looking forward to her coming over…it just hurts your heart.’ 

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