Homicide probe opened as body found in Essex cowboy boots scrapyard mystery identified

  • Watch our report from Charlie Frost

Police investigating the discovery of skeletal remains at an Essex scrapyard have finally identified the man they belong to, three years after he was found along with a pair of cowboy boots.

Officers say they belong to William 'Bill' Long, from the Tendring area, who would now be in his 70s.

The remains, along with some cowboy boots, had been found by a worker at a scrapyard in St Osyth, near to Cockett Wick Lane, on 25 April, 2019.

At the time, Essex Police issued an appeal to help identify the mystery man.

Detectives say at this stage Mr Long's death is being investigated as a homicide - but officers are keeping an open mind about what happened to him.

His family have issued an appeal for the public's help to uncover what happened to him.

DI Kevin Hughes with the cowboy boots that were found on the skeleton. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The force said it is not known what Mr Long did for long-term work, but he did casually work at the scrapyard.

Detectives say their focus is now on how he came to be where his remains were found, the circumstances which led up to his death, and exactly when he died.

They believe he was last seen, or believed to be alive, between March 1999 and March 2000, and had a girlfriend who’d moved to Australia at about that time.

Patricia, Bill's sister said "we feel so guilty that we didn’t go back to Jaywick to make sure he was ok." Credit: Essex Police

Bill’s sister Patricia said: “After our father died in 1996, we lost contact with Bill and we’re desperate for information about what happened to him.

“He was vulnerable and an easy target for scammers and we feel so guilty that we didn’t go back to Jaywick to make sure he was OK.

“The next thing we knew was when detectives came and told us Bill's remains had been found.

“It’s so difficult to deal with grief and guilt when we don't know what happened.

“If you are afraid and want to remain anonymous this can be arranged. Please help us with anything you know.”

The skeleton was found wearing these distinctive cowboy boots Credit: Essex Police

Detective Inspector Kevin Hughes, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “The process to identify Bill has been measured and methodical.

“Bill’s family have been told and they now have the chance to lay him to rest.

“They have questions about what happened to him and our focus now is to get them answers. 

"When Bill’s remains were found a lot of articles of clothing he was wearing at the time had perished over time but the boots were distinctive. But when we spoke to members of the public, people who worked at the site at the time, they were able to tell us, ‘Bill wore cowboy boots, ‘cowboy Bill.’

“I need anyone who knew Bill, saw him, spoke to him or has any information about him or his life at the time he was last seen to come forward and speak to my team.”

Police have set up a special online portal for information to be reported.

You can also submit a report online or use the 'Live Chat' button to speak to an online operator between 7am to 11pm, quoting the crime reference number 42/64620/19.

Alternatively, call police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know