Detectives today stepped up a murder hunt after the butchered body of a man was found dumped in a flooded Lancashire quarry.
Police forces throughout the country were checking missing person files to try and identify the man - thought to be the victim of a bizarre gangland-style execution.
The naked, mutilated corpse of a stocky man thought to be under 30 was found by amateur scuba-divers at Marsden's Quarry, off Halfpenny Lane, Eccleston, near Chorley. The frogmen say both hands had been chopped off the body and there was a large gaping wound in the stomach
The long haired victim of the grisly gangland-type killing had been weighed down by bricks. Police refused to disclose the nature of their initial investigations but were holding a Press conference this morning. The gruesome discovery was made in a 60ft deep pool.
The body, found by accident when sub-aqua enthusiasts Jeff Ashcroft, 22, a mechanic, and his pal Ian Reading, 34, were diving at the scene yesterday. Hours after the discovery, Jeff said "We had been diving about 60ft and were working our way round the side of the quarry to see if we could find anything interesting. When we first saw it we thought it was a tailor's dummy"
The couple prodded the corpse before realising what it was. Ian, a lorry driver, added "It was only when we got close to it that our stomachs turned over and we found we had a body on our hands". The divers - both from Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan and members of the Newton-Le-Willows Scuba club - both believe the body had not been in the water for long.
Lancashire CID chief Det Chief Supt Wilf Brookes and Assistant Chief Constable Keith Brown were immediately called to the scene. Chorley Chief Supt Ian Hunter and Supt Phil Cafferty of the No. 2 District Task Force based in Penwortham were also at the murder spot, 50 yards down Halfpenny Lane. The man in charge of the hunt is Det Supt Ray Rimmer, second in command of the Lancashire CID.
Local anglers continued to fish at the quarry unaware of the drama unfolding 60 feet below. The water has been used in the past for the illegal dumping of cars, and both divers say they saw cars deep below the surface. A dumped mini estate was found near the body. But police are understood to have ruled out any link between that car and the body.
Police frogmen later made a detailed search of the scene to try and find the man's severed hands and the murder weapon - but have been unsuccessful so far. A dental specialist has also been called in in a bid to help identify the victim. And Home Office pathologist Dr Geoffrey Garrett was carrying out a post-mortem.
Lancashire police have no record of any local missing person who would fit the bill of the victim. The body has now been removed from the quarry and is in Preston Royal Infirmary mortuary.
Article by Bob Westerdale & Peter Richardson