Call for ‘comprehensive investigation’ into death of Michael Walsh after inquest records open verdict

Michael Walsh's body was exhumed from Fenny Stratford Cemetery in March
Michael Walsh's body was exhumed from Fenny Stratford Cemetery in March

THE family of a man whose body was exhumed from a Fenny Stratford cemetery earlier this year have called for a ‘comprehensive investigation’ into the circumstances behind his death.

Coroner Tom Osborne recorded an open verdict at the inquest of Michael Walsh today, but the former Bletchley resident’s family are still keen to find out what happened to Mr Walsh on the night he was last seen.

DS Craig Curby

DS Craig Curby

That was on the morning of Christmas Day 1985 when – according to reports written years after his disappearance - he was released from Milton Keynes Police Station after being charged with criminal damage.

That charge related to damage caused to his cell on the night of December 24 after he had been arrested for a breach of the peace.

But police have indicated custody records relating to both these arrests cannot be found, meaning key questions surrounding what may have been Mr Walsh’s last moments cannot be answered.

Mr Osborne told the family it was beyond his jurisdiction to call such an investigation, but Detective Sergeant Craig Curby, giving evidence at the inquest, pledged to continue the hunt for any further evidence.

According to a report, dated March 1, 1988 and prepared by Detective Inspector Phil Burrows, who was investigating the discovery of what turned out to be Mr Walsh’s body, Michael Walsh had been arrested late at night on December 24, 1985 following a report from his then girlfriend Pauline Doyle that he had left the house with her two children.

The report says he had been arrested for breach of the peace and taken to MK Police Station, where, after appearing disorientated, he had been sedated and left to sleep for the night.

The report further states that Mr Walsh was released from custody at 6.38am on Christmas Day 1985, before being re-arrested for criminal damage allegedly caused to his cell. It records that the police charged him with the offence and he was released again.

This is the last recorded sighting of Mr Walsh alive.

His body was found by two workmen, Peter Shine and Chris Snelus, in the River Great Ouse at Olney, in December 1986. Only the lower half of his body was recovered and by that stage it was badly decomposed.

A post-mortem was carried out on the body, but it couldn’t be identified at that time. An inquest in May 1987 recorded an open verdict and the body was buried in an unmarked grave in Fenny Stratford.

It was only earlier this year, following an investigation by the Major Crime Unit, that the body was exhumed and a Home Office pathologist carried out extensive DNA testing to determine it was Mr Walsh.

At today’s inquest Mr Osborne, having heard the pathologist’s report, said he was “satisfied that the deceased is Micheal John Walsh.”

But questions surrounding his last moments remain unanswered.

A list of 79 questions, submitted by the family prior to the inquest, were not dealt with. DS Curby said that this was because of missing documentation.

Speaking at the inquest, his nephew Derval Walsh said; “It does seem to me that if you have had the chance to consider the questions it is apparent this warrants a comprehensive investigation.”

But Mr Osborne said that ordering an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Walsh’s death was not within his jurisdiction, adding that the family could ask the police to investigate the matter further.

Earlier DS Curby had said police shared the frustration that the family feel.

“We share that frustration as to what happened in 1985,” he said.

“We had a second post-mortem, the results of which support the initial post-mortem. Given the nature of the examination they are unable to provide any information about the cause of death.

“We are still trying to find further information... (but we have) still not located any additional paperwork.”

DS Curby said enquiries have been made regarding the retention policy relating to documents in the 1980s. He added that different stations would have had their own policies at that time, and that information relating to the policy in Milton Keynes could not be found.

Related stories:

Police exhume body at Fenny cemetery

Exhumed body: How we reported 25 years ago on body pulled from river

VIDEO: Body exhumed at Fenny Stratford Cemetery