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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 01:06 GMT
'Fascinating puzzle' of Mr X

Map of Sheffield


by BBC News Online's Chris Summers

A detective who has been unable to identify the decomposed remains of a man whose body was found in a holdall almost a month ago says he is determined to solve the puzzle.

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Newton of South Yorkshire Police told BBC News Online his team were working hard and were determined to identify Mr X and find out what happened to him.

On the afternoon of Saturday 22 January two men walking in the Attercliffe district of Sheffield spotted a large blue holdall under a bri-nylon eiderdown in the hedgerow.

decomposed body graphic Police are hoping DNA tests will provide further clues
Thinking it might contain something of value they picked it up and walked off.

But when they opened it they found a man's body wrapped in polythene and folded in a foetal position.

Mr Newton has spent the last four weeks trying to work out how the body got there, who the dead man was and whether he was murdered.

Kit bag

He told BBC News Online: "I'm fairly certain it was taken there on the Friday night or some time on Saturday and I'm fairly certain whoever put it there knows how the man inside died."

The bag was a three-foot long blue Rucanor holdall, of the type used to carry a football kit. The type and make of bag was manufactured between 1994 and 1997 and distributed across the UK.

Clues about Mr X
He was aged between 40 and 55
He had undergone two operations and had a surgical screw in one of his feet
He was between 5ft 4ins and 5ft 8ins tall with a slight moustache and brown hair
He had distinctive teeth, with flattened surfaces
His underpants had been made no later than 1994
Mr X, who was aged between 40 and 55, was naked except for a pair of underpants.

His body was badly decomposed but his face is now being reconstructed by Dr Martin Evison, a research consultant at the department of forensic pathology at Sheffield University.

Mr Newton is hoping that, when it is finished, the reconstructed face might be recognised by someone who has perhaps noticed a relative, friend or acquaintance go missing.

He said the man may have been dead for many years although he believed he had only recently been placed in the bag.

DNA tests

Mr Newton is conscious of the difficulties of identifying bodies which have been so badly damaged.

"One of the victims of the King's Cross fire in 1987 still hasn't been identified to this day and he had a neurosurgery plate in his head, which you would have thought would narrow the field down," he said.


It's a fascinating puzzle. One of the questions I'm asking myself is why has the body been moved now?
Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Newton
But he told BBC News Online his team were hoping to receive results soon from DNA and ethnicity tests being conducted at the Forensic Science Service's laboratories in Wetherby.

Mr Newton said: "We are making some progress with the body wrapping and some of the items that were in it."

The team has also hired entomologists, soil experts and textile specialists in an attempt to unlock the mystery.

Mr Newton said he had a "gut feeling" the person who dumped the body in the bag was local to Sheffield or South Yorkshire.

But he added the area was not far from the M1 motorway and it was possible they could have come across the lane by chance.

He said: "It's a fascinating puzzle. One of the questions I'm asking myself is why has the body been moved now?

"Maybe the people involved were moving house or maybe there was some other factor which forced them to get rid of the body."

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See also:
23 Jan 00 |  UK
Murder victim stuffed in holdall

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