Saddleworth Moor body could be Newry man missing for two decades

February 1, 2016

Police in Greater Manchester are investigating whether the body of a man found on Saddleworth Moor last December is that of a Newry man who has been missing for over two decades.

Hugh Toner, who would now be 78, went missing from Craigavon Area Hospital on 7 February 1994. Despite numerous appeals by his family and police, there have never been any positive sightings of him. The construction worker had admitted himself to hospital after suffering from psychological and alcohol-related problems but he discharged himself just under a week later and was never seen again.

The body of an unidentified man was discovered on Saddleworth Moor on December 12th 2015, by a passing cyclist. The man was found lying face up on a boggy section of track. Police say 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.

Manchester detectives have spent six weeks investigating the death and have examined CCTV footage from Ealing in west London which they believe identified the smartly dressed man beginning his journey on the morning of 11 December. He arrived in Manchester shortly after midday, then travelled to Greenfield, near Saddleworth,where he visited the Clarence pub and asked the landlord how to reach the summit of the 1500ft Indian’s Head peak above Dovestone reservoir.  Despite warnings from the landlord about the treacherous weather conditions, the man was spotted by witnesses walking up the hill around 4.30pm the same day.

The site was the scene of a plane crash that killed 24 people in 1949 and there has been speculation that the man may have been making a pilgrimage to the crash scene.

Hugh Toner’s son, Sean Toner, has given a DNA sample to police to establish if the unidentified man is his missing father. Mr Toner says he first became aware of the mystery body on the moor after his son spotted the story on social media. After viewing CCTV images released by police he contacted the police who requested a DNA sample.

The 49 year old IT Consultant says his family would like some closure and said they were anxiously awaiting the phone call from police.  He described his father as a “kind man” who was “incredibly generous and loving” and added that he and the family have very fond memories of him.

DS John Coleman of Oldham CID said he was hopeful that the Toner family might get some closure soon, but added that police were still investigating other lines of enquiry into the death.