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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Death of Cumbrian homeless man still a mystery

How and when a homeless Whitehaven man died remains uncertain, an inquest heard.

Peter McNay photo
Peter McNay

Extensive DNA tests were carried out to reveal the identity of a man whose remains were found in woodland at Nether Wasdale, near Wast Water.

The remains of Peter McNay were discovered by forestry workers at Scar Brow on May 24 last year, two years later after he had been reported missing to police.

At an inquest into his death, coroner David Roberts returned an open verdict, saying the exact details of how and when Mr McNay died are uncertain.

Mr McNay was reported missing to police in May 2009 by staff at Whitehaven Jobcentre. He was homeless at the time, but regularly visited the centre to collect his benefits. However, after missing two separate appointments, staff contacted police.

A rucksack, which belonged to Mr McNay, was found on the West Coast train to Carlisle a month later. Police found a selection of items in the bag including a tooth brush and disposable razors. DNA tests were taken from these items, which matched the remains of Mr McNay.

Photos on a disposable camera, also showed images of Mr McNay.

Police conducted a large scale missing person’s search, however, they were unable to find the 52-year-old.

Last May, two forestry workers were checking woodland at Car Brow when they came across the human remains, covered by clothes.

A post mortem was carried out and a pathologist could not confirm the cause of death, but suggested that no trauma had been caused to the skeletal remains.

Experts carried out further DNA tests which confirmed Mr McNay’s identity.

The inquest heard that Mr McNay had regularly been seen in the Wasdale area in the two years prior to his disappearance. There were reports to police on several occasions that Mr McNay had been sleeping outside in cold conditions.

PC Peter Derbyshire said Mr McNay was taken to West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven by police officers, to be treated for a heart attack, hypothermia and was sectioned under the mental health act twice.

The inquest heard from Mr McNay’s sister, Elizabeth. She told the inquest that her brother was the oldest of eight children and the family had grown up in Glasgow. Her brother, Mr McNay, moved to England in the 1980s to further his education. She said he gained various qualifications and attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

She said: “Up until the early eighties, Peter was always working. That’s what I remember about him. He worked in an abattoir, a bingo hall and a hotel. He was very a studious person intent on bettering himself.”

However, the family lost touch and she said she last saw her brother, by chance, in the mid 1990s in Glasgow. She said he didn’t recognise her and at the time looked quite dishevelled.

“I was quite shocked, because that wasn’t the Peter I knew. It was like I was speaking to a stranger,” she said.

Miss McNay said the family had only found out he had gone missing after seeing reports on the internet.

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