THE authorities might have had a better chance of identifying a mystery man found hanged in Wigan three years ago if forensics were more consistent across the country, it was claimed today.
But future chances of putting a name to the poor victim have at least been enhanced by Wigan Council’s having the presence of mind to bury rather than cremate him, it emerged today.
The case of the man, thought to have been of Eastern European origin, who was found on waste ground off Westwood Park Drive, Wigan, on January 15 2013 resurfaced again this week after both the National Crime Agency and Missing Persons’s Bureau said that there would far fewer unclaimed dead if there was more consistency between difference police forces and local councils as to what to do when a body is found.
Louise Vesely-Shore of the NCA said there were no currently agreed procedures dictating what should happen when a body is found.
She said the NCA “encourages” police and coroners to take samples, fingerprints and DNA, record dental information, and bury in a marked single grave, in case exhumation is needed in future.
In those cases in which the bodies have been cremated, she said, no DNA profile will ever be gleaned. And bodies buried in multiple graves make finding the “right” body “challenging”.
Some of these cases, she warns, will now never be solved.
In the case of the Westwood Park drive man, a Wigan council spokesman today confirmed, his body was retained by the coroner for 14 months until March 2014 as inquiries continued into his identity. He was then buried, which at least means that if further samples are required or an exhumation is requested by possible relatives’ finally coming forward, these can take place.
The man had no form of identification on him and his fingerprints and DNA checks produced no results from any database in the UK. He had a bus ticket in his pocket, dated January 14 2013, timed 6.38am, from Leigh to Wigan.
No-one fitting his description has ever been reported missing and his description has been circulated nationally via the Missing Persons’ Bureau.
He was described as white with a olive-skinned complexion, short cut brown hair, about 5ft 8ins tall.
He was wearing blue Nike tracksuit bottoms, a blue padded gilet, a McKenzie hooded blue top with grey cuffs, light blue Fred Perry T-shirt and dark blue/light blue Adidas trainers.
An inquest in 2014 recorded an open verdict, with the coroner voicing upset and frustration at not being able to identify the man.
About 150 unidentified body cases are reported each year. Most are found by dog walkers and joggers and usually in autumn or late winter, when the foliage has died back.
The NCA says it hopes to reconcile around half of the 120 to 150 cases that come in each year, but feels it could be higher if its advice was heeded by all forces and coroners.