DESPITE the thousands of stories which a journalist covers in their lifetime, you never forget a name. And Sian O’Callaghan is one of them.

Watching ITV’s drama series ‘A Confession’ has served as a chilling reminder of a murder which numbed a town.

I was on weekend newsdesk duty at the Adver’s old offices at the top of Victoria Road on Sunday, March 20, 2011, when police alerted the media about a missing person.

A 22-year-old woman had been reported missing after leaving the Suju nightclub in Old Town in the early hours of Saturday morning and not returning home to her flat half a mile away. Her name was Sian O’Callaghan.

At the Adver, we would occasionally receive media appeals from the police about missing persons. Mostly there were mental health issues, and mostly they didn’t end well.

Sian O’Callaghan was different. When Wiltshire Police revealed they were searching Savernake Forest, it was clear that Sunday how this was not any ordinary missing person’s appeal. Instinct suggested this was not going to end well either.

Here was a beautiful, young woman, a girl next door type, who had her whole life ahead of her. The photo Wiltshire Police put out to the media was of a smiling Sian, a sparkle in her eyes. She could have been yours or my daughter.

This was a story which resonated with the whole of the community. It was why on Tuesday, March 22, 400 people gathered at Savernake Forest to help police with a search of the 4,500-acre site.

One anonymous donor put up a £20,000 reward for information to find her, and the Adver printed thousands of posters which were distributed across Swindon. Ironically, one of these posters was found in Christopher Halliwell’s minicab when he was arrested in the Asda car park in North Swindon on Thursday, March 24.

This was a huge story. Television film crews and media descended on Swindon. The day Halliwell was arrested, there were reports of some journalists hammering on the doors of the minicab company offering large sums of money for images and gossip on the 47-year-old. It was a media frenzy.

Throughout this, Sian’s mother, Elaine, had remained relatively silent. But then, a week after Halliwell had been charged with murder, one of my police contacts called me and said “Elaine wants to talk, but she’ll only talk to you. She trusts you.”

So Elaine and partner Pete Shawe visited the Adver’s offices, and for 90 minutes they talked about Sian.

Elaine came armed with a photo album filled with photos of Sian. Sian wearing a brownie uniform, eight-year-old Sian wearing beads and a 1920s flapper dress. A life so innocent, a live so short.

Elaine described the events of that fateful week. “I always had hope, but I still tried to prepare myself for the worst,” she told me.

This was one of those interviews which you didn’t need to prepare for. It was not loaded with questions. Elaine just talked and reminisced.

“When the detective, Steve Fulcher, told us she had been found, there were mixed feelings.

“It was the worst of the worst that I could’ve imagined, but they’d found her. That’s what I felt when he said: ‘they’ve got her back’.

“Her dad Mick just shook his hand and thanked him for finding our daughter.

“It was a relief in a way. I would have hated to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and looking at every brunette girl, wondering if that was her.

“I don’t know how other parents can cope with not knowing – I can’t imagine never having closure.”