Timeline: The story of Michael Walsh

The body of Michael Walsh was exhumed from Fenny Stratford Cemetery in March 2012
The body of Michael Walsh was exhumed from Fenny Stratford Cemetery in March 2012

THE last recorded whereabouts of Michael Walsh show him leaving Milton Keynes Police Station on Christmas Day 1985.

It was almost a year later that the lower half of his body was found in the River Great Ouse at Olney.

Unidentifiable at the time, the remains were buried in an unmarked grave in Fenny Stratford. It was only in March this year, following an exhumation by Thames Valley Police, that the body was proved to be that of Mr Walsh.

The police report that documents relating to Mr Walsh’s arrests by Milton Keynes Police on December 24, 1985 for breach of the peace and the following morning for criminal damage relating to alleged damage to his cell cannot be found.

Without these custody records it has been impossible to piece together his final movements.

Two reports put together by Detective Inspector Phil Burrows in May 1987 and March 1988 reveal some of the story, although these accounts are second-hand and were written some time after Mr Walsh was last seen.

Moreover, DI Burrows was not involved in the arrests of Mr Walsh and there appear to be no written records identifying the police officers who were involved at the time.

An inquest on Tuesday recorded an open verdict, with coroner Tom Osborne telling the court that the cause of Mr Walsh’s death could not be ascertained.

Mr Osborne also stated thaat he lacked the jurisdiction to order an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Walsh’s death.

Working with his family, Milton Keynes Citizen is trying to find the truth of what happened to Michael Walsh in 1985.

We have put together a timeline of events compiled from existing documentation and from recent events:

Christmas Eve 1985: Police received a complaint from Mr Walsh’s former girlfriend Pauline Doyle saying he had left her home with her two children, one of whom – also called Michael Walsh – was Mr Walsh’s son.

He was arrested for breach of the peace and, according to DS Burrows’ report from March 1988, taken to Milton Keynes Police Station.

The following evidence comes from that Burrows’ report: Mr Walsh was detained under the Mental Health Act and for breach of the peace. The arresting officers are not identified.

He was seen by a doctor – described as ‘local’ but not otherwise identified in the report – who judged that he was not certifiable and should be kept under observation in his cell after taking a sleeping tablet.

December 25, 1985: According to DS Burrows’ report, Mr Walsh was released at 6.38am. He signed for his property with the signature ‘Devil Devil’.

Shortly afterwards he was re-arrested for criminal damage to his cell. He was charged with this, bailed to appear at court on January 9, 1986 and released.

January 9, 1986: Mr Walsh failed to appear at court to answer the criminal damage charge. The Burrows’ report states a warrant was issued for his arrest, but his family say no attempt was made to contact them or to visit his address.

January 21, 1986: A report was received at Milton Keynes Police Station reporting Mr Walsh missing.

According to DI Burrows’ report of March 1988, Mr Walsh’s name did not appear as a missing person ‘because, after 12 months, circulated as wanted for damage to Thames Valley Police Authority property, and was shown on the Police National Computer as wanted rather than missing’.

December 5, 1986: The lower half of a badly decomposed male body was found by workmen Peter Shine and Chris Snelus in the River Great Ouse near Goosey Bridge in Olney.

May 13, 1987: An inquest recorded an open verdict - cause of death unknown, identity unknown - and a burial certificate was issued. The body was buried at Fenny Stratford Cemetery.

Latter part of 1987: Michael Walsh’s twin brother Frank Walsh and brother Eddie Walsh visited Milton Keynes Police Station to enquire about the whereabouts of Mr Walsh.

March 1, 1988: The DS Burrows report is provided to the then Chief Superintendent.

March 2012: Police exhumed the body found in the River Great Ouse following the launch of an investigation by the Major Crimes Unit after the Missing Person’s Agency identified numerous unidentified bodies throughout the country. Mr Walsh’s family had also made several attempts over the years to have the body exhumed to see if it belonged to their relative. Enhancements in DNA mean the body can now be identified.

March 30, 2012: An inquest opens in Milton Keynes to confirm the identity of the body as Michael John Walsh.

July 10, 2012: The inquest re-opens and sees Coroner Tom Osborne confirm the body as that of Mr Walsh. He says a fresh death certificate for Mr Walsh will be prepared, but that the cause of death remains unascertainable.

Mr Osborne returns another open verdict. Investigating officer Craig Curby pledges to continue his investigation as Mr Walsh’s family press for a ‘comprehensive investigation’.