Unsolved Murders: Dad-of-two vanished without a trace

Police at the house of Harry Baines, who went missing in February 1989.
Police at the house of Harry Baines, who went missing in February 1989.
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Just what happened to Harry Baines? It is the agonising question his family have been asking for 22 years.

One night in February 1989 the Fleetwood father-of-two vanished into thin air and has never been found.

Henry Baines of Victoria street, Fleetwood.

Henry Baines of Victoria street, Fleetwood.

Six years after he disappeared the case was dramatically promoted to a full-scale murder inquiry.

Police have spent two decades years trying to piece together what happened to the popular joiner.

But even after four arrests, and a cellar at Mr Baines’ Fleetwood home being ripped up and searched, the case remains unsolved.

The police theory when they began their hunt was Mr Baines, 44, was killed and his body disposed of.

Unsolved Murders - A Gazette Special Report

Unsolved Murders - A Gazette Special Report

It is a thought which haunts his daughter, Amanda Atkinson, who was only 15 when her father went missing.

She clings to the faint hope her father is still alive and someone out there can lead her to him. The mum-of-five told The Gazette: “It’s so sad. It’s 23 years in February. The years are going by and I just want to know. I don’t know if he’s been beaten up and murdered. If not, where is he?”

Following the last appeal in The Gazette, Mrs Atkisnon says some of her father’s former acquaintances and friends contacted her.

She said: “A lot of the information came off the back of rumours. Someone came forward with some information about him being murdered but the police say it’s circumstantial evidence. They also contacted me when they found a bone on the beach. I had to give DNA but it didn’t match.

“It gets your hopes up and then you feel lost again. Now I don’t know what avenue to go down.”

Mr Baines was last seen alive in the Ship Inn on Warren Street.

National Missing Persons Charity publicised appeals, then in January, 1995 police launched a murder probe.

More than 30 police officers and forensic experts were drafted in to dig under the cellar of a terraced house, on Victoria Street, where Mr Baines lived with his girlfriend and a lodger. Heat-seeking radar equipment used to search for bodies was brought in to help police with their investigation.

Det Insp Mike Kellett said, at the time of the search, he was 99 per cent certain Mr Baines had been murdered.

Mr Baines’ former girlfriend Sylvia Preston, was arrested along with a 51-year-old-man, of Victoria Street, and a 47-year-old woman and a man in his 40s,.

All four people were released without charge.

Mrs Preston’s lawyer said the investigation was based on a “sick joke” which got out of hand. Mrs Preston died in November, 1995, aged 39, before she could sue police.

Lancashire Police’s ‘cold case’ team is reviewing the murder inquiry.

Det Insp Brian King of the Force Major Investigation team said: “We are reviewing this case – and many more – all of the time.

“We constantly look for new key lines of inquiry.”

Family man with no enemies

Fleetwood born and bred handyman Henry “Harry” Baines was a popular figure on the port’s snooker scene.

He would roam Fleetwood streets on his bike looking for joinery jobs to tide him over.

But he was best known as a stalwart of numerous snooker clubs around the port.

Then one night, he vanished.

In the wake of his disappearance, some people said they had heard he had moved from Fleetwood to find work in the south.

His name was scarcely mentioned outside of his immediate family and friend until police started to dig up his former home – (right) – a terraced house in Victoria Street.

Les Wohlers, who ran the Fleetwood Working Men’s Club said, in 1995: “I knew him (Harry) all his life. He was an odd-jobman who would do a bit of anything. He was a happy-go-lucky kind of a lad.”

Mr Baines was one of nine children and rarely ventured outside his hometown. He was married – for five years between 1972 and 1977 – to Mary Randles. They had two children, Amanda and Andrea.

Mr Baines had strawberry blond hair and tattoos including a red devil and Amanda’s name on his arm.

Mrs Randles told The Gazette, when the murder inquiry was launched: “He just vanished. It was as if a UFO came down and beamed him away.

“He was just not the type to disappear and not to keep in contact. He was too close a family man. he had no enemies, he was too placid. He was a comedian and a joker.

“You could say anything to him and he would not take offence.”

Anyone with information about the case can call Lancashire Police on 08451 253545 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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