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Mystery of human bones dumped into Sudbury's River Stour remains unsolved one year on as Suffolk Police continues murder investigation




Mystery still surrounds the grizzly discovery of human bones which were stuffed inside two black bin bags and unceremoniously dumped in a Suffolk river.

On August 27 last year Sudbury became the hub of a huge criminal investigation after a man’s remains were found at the bottom of the shallow River Stour, near Croft Bridge, prompting Suffolk Police to launch a murder probe within hours.

A year has now passed and, despite police having interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses, still even the key question has gone unanswered. Who is the athletic man found beneath the water?

It’s a question which will haunt those investigating the death just as much as it will trouble the families of missing people across the country.

A family somewhere could be waiting and hoping for their son, father, brother, to knock on the door and return safely home to them.

And it is not only the man’s identity which remains a mystery.

Specialist police officers searched Sudbury's River Stour, near Meadow Gate and Croft Bridge, in an attempt to find more evidence after bags of bones were found near a shopping trolley in the water. Picture: Mecha Morton
Specialist police officers searched Sudbury's River Stour, near Meadow Gate and Croft Bridge, in an attempt to find more evidence after bags of bones were found near a shopping trolley in the water. Picture: Mecha Morton

How did this man die? Was someone spooked into moving the remains to the river? And how long were the bones resting in the water before they were found?

Despite extensive tests by Home Office pathologists, the post mortem, taken out three days after the find, failed to establish a cause of death.

A small trace of DNA found at the scene shone very little light on the case, with tests having only confirmed that the two separate bags contained remains of the same person.

Detectives remained at the River Stour for days as they investigated the bones find. Picture: Mecha Morton
Detectives remained at the River Stour for days as they investigated the bones find. Picture: Mecha Morton

Those remains could still be on the riverbed today if it wasn’t for a passerby, walking along the picturesque Gainsborough nature trail, having spotted one of the bags.

The horrific discovery of its contents was made by a park ranger from the Sudbury Common Lands Charity who, with the help of two young boys, retrieved what at first would have looked like litter.

It is understood by Suffolk News that the park ranger no longer works for the charity, which is responsible for looking after the 125-acre nature reserve at the edge of the town.

Two bags of bones were found in the River Stour, Sudbury, on August 27 last year. Picture: Mecha Morton
Two bags of bones were found in the River Stour, Sudbury, on August 27 last year. Picture: Mecha Morton

The 999 call from the ranger came shortly after, at 4.35pm, and moments later police officers swarmed the scene, with police tents and cordons put in place.

Specialist officers from the Metropolitan Police’s marine policing unit also swept the river trying to find more clues.

More than 750 witnesses were questioned and 100 homes visited by detectives in the months following the dark discovery.

The find prompted a significant police investigation, with officers from the Metropolitan Police joining Suffolk Police in an attempt to find the person who dumped the bones into the River Stour. Picture: Mecha Morton
The find prompted a significant police investigation, with officers from the Metropolitan Police joining Suffolk Police in an attempt to find the person who dumped the bones into the River Stour. Picture: Mecha Morton

In total, detectives from the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team and the National Crime Agency have collected more than 300 exhibits - both physical and forensic - and have seized security camera footage from 70 devices in the town, and officers have trawled through hundreds of hours of video footage in their quest for answers.

Officers had been looking for a man who was seen swimming in the area of the river known locally as the Victorian bathing pool on August 20.

In Suffolk Police’s last major statement on the case they said detectives were still trying to trace the man who was seen in the water at around 5pm, and said they thought he could be a potential witness.

In total, detectives from the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team and the National Crime Agency have collected more than 300 exhibits. Picture: Mecha Morton
In total, detectives from the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team and the National Crime Agency have collected more than 300 exhibits. Picture: Mecha Morton

He was described as having olive skin, aged 20-30 years old, with short black hair around two to three inches long on top and short at the sides.

He was wearing black shorts and was carrying a red rucksack, along with other items of clothing. He left the river through the Victorian Bathing Pool and walked off towards Friars Meadow.

Officers have not said if he has been found, who he is or why he was in the river so far remains a mystery.

Police and forensic officers raided a house in Sudbury earlier this year in connection with the murder investigation. Picture: Rich Marsham
Police and forensic officers raided a house in Sudbury earlier this year in connection with the murder investigation. Picture: Rich Marsham

After a long period of silence from detectives there was hope that the mystery of the river would soon be solved when a property in East Street was raided by police on May 26.

A 26-year-old man, from Sudbury, was arrested in connection with the investigation and forensic officers who donned white overalls, hair nets and gloves could be seen scouring the property for evidence.

But, as with so much with this investigation, their efforts seem to have led to nothing, with the man in question having been released on bail.

As well as forensic officers combing the property, specialist police dogs were at the scene in an attempt to hunt for clues at the Sudbury house. Picture: Rich Marsham
As well as forensic officers combing the property, specialist police dogs were at the scene in an attempt to hunt for clues at the Sudbury house. Picture: Rich Marsham

And, just like the identity of the man in the river, how and why he ended up in the River Stour and who put him there remain a mystery even today.

Suffolk Police were asked for an interview, but have said they would only issue a pre-prepared statement to all media outlets later today.

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