THE PARENTS of Hampshire teenager Dan Nolan are today coming to terms with the news they dreaded - confirmation that their missing son is dead.

However, Pauline and Greg Nolan vow that the quest to find the truth behind their son's disappearance from his home village of Hamble will continue.

Analysis of a human foot discovered on a beach near Swanage, Dorset back in May confirmed that the remains were those of the missing teenager.

It brought to an end a mystery which had baffled the community.

It began on New Year's Day 2002 when Dan, 14, failed to return home after a night-time fishing expedition with pals on the waterfront.

Just hours after the tragic news that the DNA tests on samples taken from the remains had confirmed that Daniel was dead, Mrs Nolan read a statement to the Daily Echo.

The whole closely-knit Hamble community took part in the initial searches. It eventually spread from the famous shores of the Hamble through the length and breadth of Britain and across Europe.

Hamble villagers turned out in their hundreds to search every inch of land and sea in the hunt for clues.

Every possible avenue was explored including calling on a private detective and mediums.

Posters with Dan's description were put in ports along the south coast and across the Channel. A special website was also set up.

Daniel's mother and father had never given up hope of finding the eldest of their five children. And the couple launched a £50,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the King Edward VI schoolboy.

Motor giant Ford joined the hunt for the missing teenager with one of the company's huge trucks carrying a six feet by four feet photos of Dan on both sides of the trailer, along with a missing persons helpline number.

Dan's story captured the hearts of communities across Hampshire.

Award winning playwright Mark Wheeller, a teacher at Southampton's Oaklands Community School, put on stage the story of the teenager's tragic disappearance.

Called Dan Nolan - Missing, it won national acclaim.

Today, Mrs Nolan told the Echo: "In May of this year the discovery of human remains within two socks and DC shoes consistent with size, model, and make of what Dan was wearing on the evening of his disappearance were found at a remote place called Chapman's Pool at Swanage in Dorset.

"These remains have now been positively identified as our Dan's and that the foot came away from the body naturally, according to the police pathologist.

"Therefore on this evidence we must accept that the probability is that our Dan is no longer alive. However, as a family we must emphasise that this does not tell us the circumstances surrounding Dan's disappearance.

"In fact we feel that this has posed a lot more questions than given answers. We are fully aware that the police investigation into Dan's disappearance is still on-going and we would like to state that as a family we have complete faith in the Major Crime Unit and thank them for all their efforts in trying to answer our questions.

"The hardest task of my life was telling this news to Dan's sister Clare and Dan's three brothers, Liam, Patrick and Conor.

"All have been extremely brave during the last 21 months and Greg and I are very proud of them,

"We are all very proud of Dan and his achievements in his short but very full life. We all miss him dreadfully. However, we know that Dan was a very special boy as anybody who knew him will tell you.

"Greg and I were blessed to have him as our son.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends, old and new who have been there for us any time. Thankyou seems to be inadequate but it is from our hearts.

"A big thank you to the village of Hamble for all their support. Dan loved his village. A big thankyou to Kings Edward VI School for all the opportunities they offered Dan.''

Mrs Nolan added: "While hopefully the pain of losing Dan will fade we know that our joy of having him in our lives and memories will come stronger.

"The search for Dan may be over but I can assure you that the search for the truth surrounding Dan's death will continue. "

Detective Chief Insp Dave Williams from the Major Crime Team based at Portsmouth is leading the investigation in Daniel's disappearance and death.

He said: "Our thoughts are with the Nolan family at this time. The investigating team is united in its resolve to pursue every reasonable line of enquiry to establish the reason for Daniel's disappearance. Aconsiderable number of experts have and continue to be consulted with a view to providing the best possible evidence to assist in a proper interpretationof the events.''

Pupils and staff at Southampton's King Edward VI School are planning a memorial service as a tribute to the model pupil.

In a statement to the Daily Echo, headmaster Julian Thould said: "Daniel was a very able boy and one noted for his sense of humour, strength of character and wide range of interests. He is going to be very much missed by all the school.''