The body of a man was found in a rural part of England last December. The area is mostly wind-swept moors, with some sheep grazing, but is popular with walkers and hikers and has a number of trails. He was discovered lying on his back, with his arms by his side, on a track overlooking Saddleworth Moor.
He had £130 ($185) in cash, train tickets (all one-way) dated the day before he was found, but had no ID. Police used the train tickets to find out where the man had been the day before and found that he had travelled from London to Manchester, then on to a small town near where he died. He went into a pub, and the publican remembered the man having a “northern” accent, but not from that area. The man asked how to get to the peak of Saddleworth Moor. He was given directions, but was told that he wasn’t equipped appropriately – he was smartly dressed, but wearing slip-on shoes and had no backpack.
Neither the initial investigation nor the initial post-mortem gave any clues as to how he died. But did establish that he was a white male, between the ages of 65 and 75.
Meanwhile, the police went through CCTV images, especially those at the various train stations, which were reasonably clear, and gave those to the media. But no-one came forward to identify him.
Eventually, the toxicology came through. He had traces of strychnine in his body. Police also revealed that he had an empty container labelled thyroxine sodium, which is used to treat an underactive thyroid, though there were no indications that he had taken an overdose of that drug.
The police reported that the man had undergone surgery to his left femur and they have identified the plate used in that surgery as being fitted in Pakistan between 2001 and 2005. Surgical implants usually have a manufacturer’s code, and often there’s an individual code for each implant. But tying one particular implant to an individual patient requires meticulous records and, if the hospital isn’t known, it will take a long time to find out which hospital and then which patient.
The police have said that that the man was observed on CCTV at Euston Station in London, “pacing up and down”. I wonder if that’s when he had got to the point of no return; that he had disposed of all belongings, relinquished his home, divested himself of everything that could identify him, and was just impatiently waiting for the train to take him on his last journey.
The area that he went to had two possible significances. One was a crash of a small aircraft, and there was speculation that he was the last survivor of that, but that turned out not to be the case. The other was that Saddleworth Moor was where the serial killers known as the “Moors Murderers” had buried their victims (one child has never been found). But it’s equally possible that he had no connection with any horrors that had happened in that place – it might just have been a happy place that he remembered from his childhood.
The authorities will not likely be able to ascertain the “why” if they can’t identify the “who”. Neither fingerprints nor DNA have provided any results from the UK national databases. I don’t know if the police have enquired further to Interpol.
It’s very strange that no-one has come forward. If he was living here in the UK, then he would have had to be living somewhere, which could have been in his own house or in rented property or a hotel, in which case someone surely would have identified him by now.
Alternatively, he could have been living in Pakistan all those years and decided to come back to the UK to die here. Yet there’s no report that he was suffering from a terminal disease – though the police might not have released the full autopsy report. And without an identification, no will/probate can be applied for, yet he seems to have been a well-nourished, middle-class man, so presumably would have had some property, even if just personal/family items, that would normally be passed to the next generation.
It’s a very sad mystery.