A musician from Shoeburyness has been hailed as a ‘hero of the highest order’ after finding a family of four from Pitsea who went missing in December 1996. Dean Derron was shopping for a new desk at IKEA in Thurrock earlier today, and he noticed something strange while he was removing a flat-pack box off one of the warehouse shelves – it turned out to be a makeshift shelter that was housing David, Shereen, Gary and Zoe McSmith. According to reports from the scene, the four had been wandering aimlessly around the Swedish furniture store for more than 19 years, and they had practically ‘given up’ on ever finding the exit.
Eyewitnesses told our Chief Reporter that the family members were overjoyed about being found, and once a doctor had been called to check them over for signs of malnutrition, rickets and woodworm, David McSmith was well enough to tell us about his ordeal. The 59-year-old father of two said: ‘We came here at the end of 1996 to get a new wardrobe for Zoe’s bedroom, and once we picked out something suitable we headed downstairs to find the boxes in the warehouse. We forgot to write down the shelf location, and so we headed back upstairs to get a pencil and tape measure, but we couldn’t find the display model, and at this point we decided to give up and go home. Unfortunately, we followed the arrows to the exit and kept ending up where we started, and we have been stuck here ever since – this place is 37,000 square metres of hell.’
Wife Shereen, 57, added: ‘It’s not been the ordeal that people would probably imagine. Hygiene has never been a problem as there must be at least 100 different bathrooms here, and we have managed to survive on discarded meatballs and lingonberry jam from the café. From Monday to Friday, we have also been able to get a free cup of tea or coffee with our IKEA Family card – we just gave our address on the application form as ‘The stack of boxes behind the shelves on aisle 219.’ Thinking about it now, it’s a bit weird that nobody said anything at that point.’
For his efforts to free the McSmith family from their ‘flat pack hell,’ King Gustav of Sweden has privately confirmed that Mr Derron is in line for the highest possible civilian honour that the country can award a non-Swedish national. The ceremony to hand over a Golden Volvo Award is due to take place in the Spring, but Dean is adamant that he was only doing what any other decent member of society would have done. The lead singer of Essex heavy metal band Myopic Empire said: ‘I can’t imagine the heartbreak that other members of their family were feeling when they disappeared without a trace more than 19 years ago, and just being able to get them back to Pitsea is reward enough for me. I am honoured that the King of Sweden is going to recognise my efforts, but what I want the general public to realise is that it could have happened to any other family. I will spend the rest of my life campaigning on their behalf for all IKEA customers to be given a map, or at least a piece of string that is attached to the main doors.’