Allotment search fails to find body in '˜grave'

No body or other human remains have been found beneath a suspected 'grave' uncovered by a gardener on a Wigan allotment.

Wednesday, 29th November 2017, 3:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:30 am
Police at Balcarres Avenue, Whelley

Extensive excavations coupled with soil tests at the site off Balcarres Avenue in Whelley led a Home Office pathologist to conclude yesterday that the land appeared not to have been someone’s final resting place after all.

It was greeted by tenants with a mixture of relief and puzzlement today.

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Allotment secretary Keith Moss made the discovery recently, clearing away long grass in an unused part of the plot to find large stones arranged in the shape of a tombstone and accompanied by a plaque bearing the epitaph “Precious Memories of a Much Loved Sister. There was also a small bunch of plastic flowers accompanying it.

He contacted the police who descended in force on the site and sealed it off to the public. An officer stood guard on Monday night to preserve the scene and then the forensic work began on Tuesday morning.

Mr Moss said: “They dug around the site - I’m not sure how deep and extensively - but came to the conclusion that there was no body, no body parts or even ashes. They seem to have conducted some kind of tests on the soil as well as sifted it.

“I am relieved, not only because it would be sad to find an unofficial grave in the middle of an allotment, but also because if they had found something the place would have been shut off to us for a lot longer. Our project could have been delayed for a long time if that had been the case.

“That said I am just as mystified as I was before. We are none the wiser as to who the ‘sister’ is referred to on the plaque, nor who put it there.

“I have been working this allotment for three years and didn’t know of its existence and the chap who was with me when it was found has been here 20 years and it meant nothing to him either.

“The grass was 4ft to 5ft high so it was well covered and had been for a long time.

“It just seems so strange. Who would go to the trouble of buying all these big stones, arranging them in a two to three-foot by 6ft shape like a grave and then placing and plaque and flowers?

“I don’t think people would go to that much trouble for ashes, so it was quite a surprise to find there was no body, as well as a relief.”

Local councillors Michael McLoughlin and Lawrence Hunt issued a joint statement to say that they were relieved that the operation had ended without any distressing discoveries and thanked the police for attending to tackle the incident.

Mr Moss said that the allotment users had been told that they could now return to their plots.

He added: “I haven’t been down there yet.

“I’m guessing that they will have replaced the stones and plaque as they are doing no harm and there isn’t a crime involved.

“There is a lot of earth churned up by what they have been doing, but I suppose that couldn’t be helped.”

Wigan Council liaised with Greater Manchester Police over the temporary closure of the site to tenants.

A Wigan borough police spokesman confirmed that officers had investigated the site and that no evidence of human remains had been discovered.