A mother has spoken of her grief over the disappearance of her son on what would be his 20th birthday.

Stella Harding saw her son Owen for the last time when he left their Saltdean home on March 26, 2020, just three days into the coronavirus lockdown.

It was believed that Owen, who was then 16, could have embarked on a 280-mile journey to see his girlfriend, Meg, in Pocklington, near York. He was unable to catch a train due to the Covid restrictions.

No trace of him has ever been found.

As Owen’s family celebrated what would have been his 20th birthday on Saturday in his absence, Stella says she has no choice but to continue living without answers about what happened to him.

The Argus: Stella HardingStella Harding (Image: PA)

“Grief is not a linear journey. Some days are good and some days are bad,” she said.

“Sometimes I go into nature and sometimes I just don’t want to get out of bed.

“We ordered an Indian takeaway on Owen’s birthday because he loved them and we had a cake with candles and sang happy birthday to him.”

READ MORE: Owen Harding disappearance one year on | The Argus

Stella said she and Owen’s sister, who was five when her brother went missing, continue to do things in his honour.

The Argus: Owen and StellaOwen and Stella (Image: PA)

The school teacher said the police have been supportive but she feels they did not realise the seriousness of the situation early enough.

“The police have been good but there really isn’t anything for them to say. Any time I want to call them I can so they’ve been good in that sense,” she said.

The Argus: Owen and girlfriend MegOwen and girlfriend Meg (Image: Owen and girlfriend Meg)

“I feel like they didn’t take it seriously in the first place. It was 24 to 48 hours before they pulled out all the stops. We felt like they should have done more, sooner. They came round but they didn’t pull out all the stops.

“It wasn’t until later that they got the police helicopter and drones out.”

The charity Missing People has supported Stella throughout the ordeal and continues to do so through counselling and Zoom calls with the parents of other missing people.

Sussex Police were asked for comment.