ONE DAY LAST month, an elderly man took a train from London to the northwest of England, trekked up an isolated hillside, and died.
The man’s identity and cause of death are a mystery that has stumped police and intrigued the UK, as detectives probe whether his final journey is linked to a deadly plane crash more than 60 years ago, and a possible connection to Ireland.
Greater Manchester Police say the body of a neatly dressed man of about 70 was found on 12 December, on a path leading to a rocky outcrop called Indian’s Head on Saddleworth Moor.
In his pockets were return train tickets and £130 pounds (€170) — but no ID. There were no signs of violence and an autopsy was inconclusive.
The day before he was found dead, the man had taken a train 200 miles from London, then travelled to the village of Greenfield, where he stopped at a pub and asked how to get to the top of Indian’s Head.
Then he set off on foot, never to return.
Inquiries in the London neighborhood where the man started his journey have yielded no results.
Police are scouring missing person reports going back decades and have asked for DNA from relatives of Hugh Toner, a Northern Ireland man who disappeared more than 20 years ago.
Toner, who would now be 78, went missing from a hospital in Craigavon, Co Armagh in February 1994.
Detective Sgt. John Coleman, who is leading the investigation, said today that detectives “are keeping a completely open mind.”
One line of inquiry is whether there is a link between the man and the 1949 crash near the same spot of a British European Airways DC-3 in which 24 people died.
The plane crashed in the same area of Saddleworth Moor where the unidentified man was found dead in December, after taking off from Belfast on the morning on 19 August, 1949.
Eight people survived, including a 5-year-old boy named Stephen Evans, and police had thought Evans might be the dead man.
But yesterday, Evans contacted police to say that he was alive and well. Police still believe it is possible that the dead man is a relative of someone involved in the plane crash.
Due to the connection to Belfast, Coleman told the Guardian police were extending their search to Ireland.
He could be related to someone who lived or lost their life that August morning. We are keeping all our options open.
The unidentified man could possibly have been making a pilgrimage to the plane crash site to remember a relative or friend.
Contains reporting by the Associated Press.
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