Mother who spent her youth in Bromley writes book about her time as a missing person

PUBLISHED: 18:00 31 July 2014

Eileen and Shelley Mackenney have both written books about their experiences.

Eileen and Shelley Mackenney have both written books about their experiences.


At the age of 22, a desperate young woman struggling with depression and debt got on a coach and became a missing person for the next 18 months.

Shelley Mackenney, who spent much of her youth in Bromley, had a shopping addiction and had maxed out overdrafts and credit cards.

On the verge of losing her home, Shelley felt all she could do was walk out of her life, leaving her grandmother- who had raised her after her mother walked out on her aged three- and possessions behind.

“I felt like my whole little empire had fallen apart,” Shelley explained.

Shelley went to Birmingham, where she became “a person with no name” living on the streets and in hostels.

Despite being attacked, drugged and having to occassionally sleep rough, Shelley survived against all the odds and returned home.

She has turned her life around and written a book about her experiences, Missing, which was published by Penguin in May this year.

Shelley is hoping her book can help other missing people realise you can come back and give hope to those who may be struggling.

“The turning point came when I got pregnant and I went to the doctors and they told me it would be advised to have counselling,” she said.

“It’s only when you look at the mistakes you’ve made yourself that you can change and you can make things better.

“You can get back up. You can make a success of your life.”

She was supported by the Salvation Army, who told her that her family were still looking for her.

Shelley was reunited with her grandmother Eileen, who has herself written a memoir about her life in South London called Borstal Girl.

Now mum to 10-year-old Alyssia, Shelley has carried out work with charities and the police and wants to help other people who have gone missing or are considering running away from home.

“I know how hard it was and I know how scary it was. Your mind kind of works against you because even though you want to come back you’re scared to.

“Having written my book I found it very emotional to revisit everything.

“When you write a book, for the reader, you have to make it all crystal clear. Every aspect of it has to be written down.

“I was very nervous when the book was due to come out because I was wondering if I would be judged.”

Shelley worried she would be “vilified” or thought of as “selfish” because of the distress people face when they are looking for their missing relatives, and worried her family would be angry at her for leaving.

As well as writing the book, Shelley has has been working with the Borough Commander for Solihull Police in order to highlight the difficulties faced by vulnerable people living on the streets and working with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid to help raise awareness of exploitation.

“When I came through this I felt very passionate about the things I have seen and some of the injustices I have seen,” she said.

“You may be on the streets and you may feel like life’s given up on you but you have got a right to life and you have got a right to be treated right.”

Shelley hopes that in the future more missing people will come forward and get the help they need.

“There’s a lot of interest in missing people. No one knows what happens when you’re out there because so few people come forward and come back and it’s never been explained.

“When I was running away I was running away from myself. You are running away from your own truths.

“I think what we need to try and do as a society is try and support people in coming back.

“I was never offered the chance to come back even though I went to hostels and support workers. No one ever said to me ‘why don’t you go back, why don’t you contact your family.’”

Shelley’s book is available on Amazon. To purchase a copy please visit

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bromley Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Bromley Times