Does this story sound familiar? Do you recognize the person in these pictures? The investigators are asking for help.
Exactly six years ago to the day, police officers in rural England discovered something disturbing.
While searching an abandoned and overgrown barn in Hampshire as part of a separate investigation, they came across a body.
What was left was “essentially a skeleton,” major crime officer Douglas Utting told Euronews, estimating the person had been dead for several years.
The body belonged to a Caucasian man in his 50s, between 177 and 180 cm tall, with brown hair.
In addition to tobacco and cigarette papers, his remains were surrounded by clothing, including a cap and glasses, a crime novel and items that suggested he was “living in the wilderness or on some kind of journey,” Utting explained.
Otherwise there were no clues.
Officers found no passport, driving license or other identifying items at the abandoned dairy farm in Micheldever, southern England, where his body was discovered.
There are no other signs, such as a tattoo or jewelry, that could “shorten the list of who this person could be,” Utting said.
Even the cause of death was a mystery.
Again, there was “no obvious trauma, no weapons, no clear signs of suicide, as is often the case in such cases,” the major crimes officer explained, although investigators believe the man likely died of natural causes is.
Hampshire Police then turned to science and took DNA samples from his toothbrush and teeth.
But they still drew a blank. They were unable to match his DNA to anyone in the UK crime database or Missing Persons Investigation Unit.
At the end of their search, they resorted to a media appeal and asked the anthropologist Dr. Chris Rynn to create a facial reconstruction of his skull, which was made available to national newspapers in 2019.
And then the story took an unexpected turn.
Witnesses came forward from Itchen Stoke, a nearby village, and told Hampshire Police the man knocked on their door in 2012 and asked if he could pitch a tent in their field because he was lost. They accepted.
The witnesses reported to the officers that he was “fairly disheveled” and spoke “good English, but with a strong French accent.”
That evening they ate together and talked to him, although after so long their memory of what he had told them was sketchy.
Unable to remember his name, they remembered him and said he was from France and had served in the army as a conscript and suffered an injury that left him partially deaf.
A witness himself was a former soldier and said the man had a “military attitude,” particularly in the way he organized his possessions.
He also told witnesses that he had worked for well-known French actress Catherine Deneuve, although her agency was unable to confirm this when asked by Hampshire Police.
Why exactly he was in southern England remains unclear.
The man claimed to have recently arrived and told witnesses he was traveling across the country to get to Ireland to meet his girlfriend.
However, “all options are open,” said Utting.
Witnesses claimed he may have been suffering from a “mental illness”, although the major crimes officer said this was “just an opinion”.
“Was he on the run? Of course it could have been him, if he had been a criminal and it had gotten into someone’s DNA database, we probably would have known about it by now… But who knows? That’s part of the mystery of this story,” he added.
The next morning, the man said goodbye to the couple – reluctantly accepting the offer of food and money – and walked down the country road “never to be seen again,” Utting said.
Given these new clues, Hampshire Police once again turned to science to uncover additional details about the case. They worked with researchers led by Dr. Stuart Black from the University of Reading, who used isotope analysis of his teeth to find out exactly where the man came from.
Dr. Black likened it to a “fingerprint,” telling Euronews that as tooth enamel forms in childhood, chemicals from the food and water we consume become imprinted on it, indicating where a person grew up.
The analysis by Dr. Black revealed that the man probably spent the first twelve years of his life in a “large city” somewhere in “a fairly large area from southeastern France and Corsica to the very western edge of Switzerland.” His early diet was also rich in fish.
“It’s pretty sad to think that someone died… alone in a dirty, cold barn.”
Hampshire Police shared this information with French authorities and Locate, a volunteer organization that takes on unsolved missing people cases, but their investigation has since reached a dead end.
They are now asking for the public’s help.
“The purpose of our appeal is to send a message to the people of France, French-speaking Switzerland and Corsica… [and] Ask the question: Does this? [story] mean anything to anyone? Do this [image] “Do you remember anyone you haven’t seen since 2012?” said Utting, of Hampshire police.
He called on the public to come forward with information in what he said was a last-ditch effort by police.
“We can’t do much more. Asking people in France and Switzerland if they can really help is our last chance to put a name to this man and make a connection with a family that may be missing him…someone somewhere must have surely done it [information].”
“It’s pretty sad to think that someone died alone from a dirty cold in these circumstances [barn] probably in the winter and was not found for five years and then not buried,” Utting added.
Outside the UK, anyone who believes they may have information about the case can contact Locate International anonymously by emailing [email protected].
Within the UK, call 101 and be transferred to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary. Please include the reference number 44170467777.
Alternatively, people can submit information via their website: https://www.hampshire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/cor/tell-us-about-existing-case-report/.
Source : www.euronews.com