Church lead in hunt for Paige

Search zone: A temporary barrier erected across the graveyard at All Hallows Church in Bispham.
Search zone: A temporary barrier erected across the graveyard at All Hallows Church in Bispham.
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The detective leading a new search for missing teenager Paige Chivers says an anonymous phone call prompted them to focus on overgrown land behind a Bispham church.

Det Supt Andy Webster said the man who called the police control room with the tip-off a week ago had given new information which suggested Paige could be buried at the site behind All Hallows Church, off All Hallows Road.

The area, which has been cordoned off, is just across the road from a flat searched by police last week and close to Montgomery High School, where Paige was a pupil.

Det Supt Webster said police had spoken to Paige’s grandparents and aunt about the plans to search the site on Tuesday evening, but added he did not want to raise hopes of a breakthrough.

Paige was 15 when she left her family home on Longford Avenue, Bispham, on Thursday, August 23, 2007, after an argument with her father.

Det Supt Webster said a renewed police appeal last month and the offer of a £30,000 reward had sparked a number of calls.

Crucially, some of those calls have contained new information.

Det Supt Webster said up to 15 officers could be involved in searching the parcel of land, which is accessible through the churchyard and which is separated by a fence from two homes built around 2007/08.

The team includes several forensic scientists, including specialists from the National Crime Agency, a botanist and an archaeologist, who will help to guide officers in clearing and examining vegetation.

Police dogs will be used in searching the land, which is the size of a small swimming pool, while Det Supt Webster said there would be an assessment to see if the use of ground radar equipment would be possible.

The search is expected to take between seven to 10 days.

Det Supt Webster added: “It would be wrong to raise people’s hopes but this is a line of inquiry we must pursue in a professional and cautious manner.

“The recovery of Paige’s body is really important, primarily so her family can lay her to rest, but it would undoubtedly afford us opportunities in terms of evidence and forensics to move the case forward.

“We are optimistic we can find Paige for her family’s sake.

“Over the years we have searched a number of sites in relation to Paige and we are keeping an open mind as to whether this is where she is.

“This is a heavily overgrown area with trees and brambles, so the search will take quite a few days, but we just have to be patient and work slowly and methodically through the area.”

Det Supt Webster continues to believe the answer to Paige’s disappearance lay in Blackpool.

He added: “I would ask for anyone else who has information in relation to Paige’s murder, her lifestyle, her associates or her where-abouts during that Bank Holiday weekend to come forward.

“There are lawful measures we can taken to protect people if they are in fear of retribution or if they are involved in any criminality.”

Det Supt Webster added forensic results from items taken from the nearby flat had so far failed to provide significant information, but that further results were awaited.

Anybody with information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.