To many people of a certain age Saddleworth Moor, which borders Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, is already one that is is tainted with memories of the murderous duo of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady who abducted, abused and murdered five children in the 1960’s before burying them in the vast, bleak moorland. With some bodies being recovered in the 1980’s and, at least, one still laying undiscovered, Saddleworth Moor already has more than enough modern mystery.
Each year around 240 unidentified bodies are discovered across Britain with around half of these eventually being identified. Some of the more tricky ones are those that have been missing for many years or situations where only part of a body has been recovered.
Just over a month ago, the body of an elderly man was discovered on Saddleworth Moor but his identity and circumstances of why he came to die there still remains a mystery.
Police Officers quickly identified the smartly dressed man in CCTV footage from Ealing, West London, where he is believed to have started his journey on the morning of 11 December. He arrived in Manchester shortly after midday after taking a train from London Euston, then went to Greenfield, near Saddleworth, and visited the Clarence pub at 2 pm, where he asked the landlord how to get to the top of the 1,500ft (457m) Indian’s Head peak, above Dovestone reservoir.Despite warnings from the landlord, Mel Robinson, about treacherous weather conditions, the man left the pub and was spotted by witnesses walking up the hill at about 4.30pm. His body was found the next morning by a passing cyclist, lying face up on a boggy section of track off the main road. He was wearing slip-on shoes and had £130 in cash in his pockets, along with three train tickets, including a return ticket to London. He was carrying no documentation.
An initial post-mortem proved inconclusive and police are awaiting toxicology reports. A secondary autopsy is due next week.
For several weeks it thought that the dead man could have been one of the few survivors of a British European Airways flight which crashed into the Moor in 1949, killing 24 people. However, the sole surviving member of that flight has now been traced.Police have now revealed the mystery victim was carrying an empty plastic container displaying Thyroxine Sodium, a medicine which is used to treat an under-active thyroid. But this is a drug which would give a person energy. So potentially, he could have taken it if he is walking.
Another possibility is that the dead man is Hugh Toner, from Newry, walked out of Craigavon Area Hospital in the early hours of Monday, 7 February 1994, dressed only in a vest and pyjama bottoms.
Despite an extensive search at the time, which included the use of police divers, no sign was ever found of him. His bank accounts were untouched and his family never heard from him again.
At this stage, however, it remains a mystery as to why a seemingly healthy elderly man from London would travel across the country, seemingly to die on an isolated moor. It is almost as incredible that after 6 weeks the identity and motives of the man remains a mystery.