Missing widow found dead in canal in Wigan

The canal behind the Windmill pub in Parbold
The canal behind the Windmill pub in Parbold

The body of a Wigan pensioner has been recovered from a village’s canal three days after her sudden disappearance.

A major police search was launched for Edna Gormally when she was reported missing by a concerned friend in Parbold.

The 85-year-old, who lived alone, had last been seen alive on Friday afternoon after a pub lunch with friend Elizabeth Winstanley which had been marred by an altercation with a motorist in the car park which left her shaken and distressed.

Retired Wigan schoolteacher Edna had already been suffering from anxiety following the death of her husband Vince last April and would be invited out regularly by 82-year-old Elizabeth to “jolly her up”.

Elizabeth’s daughter Ruth told the Wigan Observer that both women had been widowed recently and their husbands had been the best of friends. They would speak on the phone virtually every day but Elizabeth wasn’t unduly worried when she couldn’t get an answer on Saturday.

“But when further calls were made and a visit round to her house found her car missing, Mrs Winstanley became worried enough to contact the police by Sunday teatime.

A police operation was launched and in the early hours of Monday morning, volunteers from the Bowland Mountain Rescue Team and the fire service joined officers in searching the area.

By 5am the mountain rescue team was called off but then the police’s underwater search unit was drafted in.

Edna’s car had been found in the car park of the Windmill pub on Mill Lane and eventually frogmen made their grim discovery in the Leeds and Liverpool canal just 20m away from the vehicle.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: "We were called at around 7.45pm on Sunday to reports a woman aged in her 80s had gone missing from home in Parbold.

"Sadly an underwater search team located a body at around 12.30pm on Monday in the canal, close to Mill Lane. Formal identification has yet to take place, but we believe the body is that of the missing woman.

"At this time there are thought to be no suspicious circumstances. A file will be passed to the coroner in due course."

Ruth had made an appeal for help in tracing “Auntie” Edna.

But it is now thought that Edna died at some point on Friday.

She had arranged to meet Elizabeth for lunch at the Stocks Tavern. Elizabeth was already inside when Edna arrived and accidentally clipped the wing mirror of a 4x4 on the car park.

The owner ran out of the pub and remonstrated loudly with her, even though there was no damage to either vehicle.

Accountant Ruth, 56, said: “Edna came in for the meal after that but was clearly badly shaken up by what happened.

“She had already been suffering from anxiety since Vince died last year.

“In the end though, while the man over-reacted, he probably just flew off the handle thinking his car was damaged and couldn’t have known Edna’s state of mind.

“We know she drove home again after the meal but now think that at some point later on Friday she went out again, parked her car up in the Windmill car park and just walked into the canal.

“It is so sad. Edna was a lovely, thoughtful but quite quiet lady who was very clever.”

Ruth later went on social media again to confirm the tragic news and thanked all those who had offered help and kind words.

Edna was from the Whitley area of Wigan and had lived with Vince in Wordsworth Avenue for many years before moving first to Scarborough, then Newburgh and finally Parbold.

Searching for Edna was the mountain rescue team’s second emergency in Parbold this year.

Last Friday 13 volunteers assisted the North West Ambulance Service with a fisherman who had collapsed through a wooden fishing platform.

The 63-year-old sustained a lower leg fracture which required treatment and evacuation by paramedics and mountain rescuers.

The angler was then transferred to the Southport and Formby District General hospital for further treatment.