POLICE are today searching marshland on the Isle of Wight for the body of missing teenager Damien Nettles.

Damien, 16, from West Cowes, went missing nearly 15 years ago after spending the evening at a party with friends.

Police this morning sealed off a patch of marshland next to the Newport-Cowes cycleway and footpath in the Stag Lane area of Newport.

Specialist officers will be using a range of techniques and technology to examine the ground for human remains over the next few days.

It comes after five men, aged 37 to 50, were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of murdering Damien. They were released on bail last night.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Dave said: “We are responding to information received about the possible whereabouts of Damien Nettles’ body.

“The area we’re now searching was identified after the police received more information about what could have happened to Damien after his disappearance in November 1996.

“We’re not in a position to discuss the details because it is important for the police to protect how they gather sensitive information.

He added: “There have been false and malicious allegations about possible burial sites for Damien’s body over the past 14 years. Such unfounded speculation has upset the Nettles family and wasted police time and resources.

“Therefore, careful consideration has been given to our decision to examine this marshland. It is important for the community to keep expectations for this search in perspective. We cannot guarantee that anything will be found at this stage.”

Damien’s mysterious disappearance on the night of November 2, 1996, baffled police, who believed he may have fallen into the sea as he made his way home.

They reopened the case to find him in 2008 following up new lines of inquiry.