Riddle of the mystery bodies

Grim discovery: Fleetwood beach, where a body was discovered 40 years ago. Below ' Coun John Davies
Grim discovery: Fleetwood beach, where a body was discovered 40 years ago. Below ' Coun John Davies
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They are the macabre discoveries which have baffled detectives for decades.

Washed up on beaches across the Fylde coast, they are the bodies – or remains of bodies – with one grim fact in common... no names, no identification, no family to come forward and claim them.

Today, the Gazette can reveal for the first time the full haunting details of the mystery finds which continue to stump Lancashire’s top officers.

This month marks 40 years since the body of a well-dressed man washed up on the beach in Fleetwood – he was never identified.

Since then three more discoveries – in Blackpool, St Annes and Preesall – have gone unsolved.

But police today insisted they will never give up hope of cracking the cases, and have revealed full details of the discoveries in the hope of making a breakthrough at last.

Det Insp Lukmaan Mulla, of Blackpool CID, said: “You never know with these cases – things are always constantly reviewed.

“If a body has been in the sea for some time you might struggle to get a full DNA profile but in two years’ time you might be able to get better results.”

He said advancing technology can lead to breakthroughs in cases that have been open for years.

But while he said cases of this kind are rare, as most are identified within 48 hours, a small number can be problematic – particularly if the person is not from the area.

“You tend to find they are not people that are known to us,” he added.

“When we get a body, first of all we treat it as a homicide before anything else.

“Once I am satisfied there’s no evidence the person has been a victim of crime, I would be looking to identify them – and the first port of call is fingerprints.

“Then we would look at taking DNA swabs and doing a speculative check on the database.

“But if they are not known to us, they won’t be on the database.”

Coun Billy Glasgow, who sits on Fleetwood Town Council, said he hoped the continued focus on the investigations would mean they can one day be solved.

He added: “It is quite sad. Obviously, I feel sorry for the family, not having had that closure. It must be frustrating for them but of course a body can travel miles away from where it went into the sea. As a town councillor, I hope they do get some closure although it’s a hard case to crack.

“It’s good that the police are keeping the case open though.”

But while the chances of solving some of these mysteries – so long after the bodies or, in some cases, body parts were discovered – may be slim, the hope of police and councillors is not unfounded.

In the past six months, police have successfully identified one such mystery corpse with help from a national Missing Persons Bureau website set up almost two years ago.

The site contains details of 536 unidentified bodies being investigated across the UK, which help crack three cases in its first year. Coun John Davies, who represents the Ashton ward in St Annes, where the most recent discovery took place, said: “It is a sad case. We would want to help the police find out who it is.”

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: “The NCA’s Missing Persons Bureau website was set up to publicise cases of unidentified people and remains, giving members of the public the opportunity to provide information which may help solve them. The work of the MPB additionally provides support to missing persons investigations at the request of lead officers.

“The majority of missing persons cases are resolved quickly, although many remain on file as open. Those cases are reviewed on a regular basis in view of emerging technologies – such as DNA and dental records – which may contribute to their resolution.”

For more information on the Missing Person Bureau and details of the 536 cases nationwide, including the four on the Fylde coast, visit http://www.missingpersons.police.uk

The bodies which have baffled county detectives

In September 1974, the body of a man aged between 50 and 65 was found washed up on the beach in Fleetwood with £13 in his pocket.

He was wearing a dark suit, with a white shirt and mustard-coloured zip-up cardigan, as well as a grey mackintosh coat.

He also had a small case with him, containing a brush, comb and filer.

Police say he was white, around 163cm tall and of medium build.

In September 1977, a decomposed body was pulled from the sea in Blackpool. Police say the man had been in the water for around six months.

He had severe atheroma of the arteries, gallstones and it is thought he may also have had cancer.

He was 180cm tall, of medium build and thought to be aged between 40 and 65. He had dark brown receding hair.

In January 1982, a man’s body was recovered from the sea at Preesall.

Although he had been in the water for just a short time, his watch had stopped two days earlier, at 6.20am on January 2.

He had blue eyes and bushy facial hair, as well as distinguishing scars on his left buttocks and right leg.

He wore brown trousers, a red and white striped size 15 shirt with a purple sleeveless pullover underneath.

A beige jacket was found nearby. Police described him as a white male, aged 45 to 55, of a thin build and with brown receding hair.

In April 2011, police found the partial remains of a man near the seafront in St Annes, opposite Bentinck Road.

Police believe he died around a year before he was discovered, making him difficult to identify.

Little is known about him, and his age was estimated as between 20 and 65.

The other three unsolved cases still on Lancashire Police’s books refer to bodies found in Preston in 1978, in Middleton in 1987 and in Skelmersdale in 1999.