POLICE search teams have been scouring a Lancashire wood in a hunt for a murder victim who may have been buried there over seven years ago.
Residents in Bolton-by-Bowland in the Ribble Valley were baffled to see police cars and vans descend on a layby near Admiral’s Wood, off Gisburn Road.
Officers in white forensic suits and officers with cadaver dogs – specially trained to sniff out corpses – began combing the woods on Saturday.
The body is believed to be that of David Guilfoyle, a wealthy Accrington businessman who was involved in the criminal underworld.
The man convicted of his murder, Shane Fitzpatrick, currently serving a life sentence in Garth Prison, Leyland, is helping the search.
Mr Guilfoyle, aged 37, an England international level pool player, disappeared after watching the Liveroool-AC Milan European soccer final on Wednesday, May 25th, 2005, at the Grey Horse pub, Whalley Road, Accrington. He had driven away in his green Jaguar XK8 convertible.
Traces of his blood were found on some outside walls of his executive bungalow on Royds Avenue, Accrington, and police believed he was the victim of a savage attack.
Speaking at the scene of the search on Wednesday, Detective Superintendant Paul Withers, who is leading the inquiry, said: “Shane Fitzpatrick has been serving a custodial sentence but never admitted his guilt and never answered questions until recently when he indicated he wanted to speak to us.
“Two officers visited him at Garth Prison last Friday when he basically admitted his guilt, admitted responsibility for the murder and indicated that the body had been buried in a shallow grave in Admiral’s Wood.
“He expressed remorse for his actions and indicated he had given up the body because it was the right thing to do especially for Mr Guilfoyle’s friends and family. He has had a lot of time to think about things and deeply regrets what he did.’’
Det. Supt. Withers said Fitzpatrick had chosen Bolton by Bowland to dispose of the body because he was a fell runner who had competed in Bowland Harriers fell races and knew the area.
Det. Supt. Withers added the search involved 25 police officers co-ordinated by a specialist search adviser and yesterday they were joined by soldiers from the army’s 33 Engineers Regiment who were giving advice on signs of ground disruption.
Forensic archaeologists are also working with the search team. Det. Supt. Withers added: “Fitzpatrick was brought to the scene on Tuesday morning and indicated an area, but it was difficult for him with the passage of time, there has been some logging in the wood, and, of course, it was dark when he buried the body.’’
Mr Guilfoyle was described as “a self-made man” who owned a dozen rented properties in the Hyndburn area and travelled the world, including Egypt, Brazil and Australia.
He had been convicted of smuggling cigarettes and possessing forged banknotes, but police said he was “not a criminal mastermind” and ruled out a gangland killing. Police later arrested Fitzpatrick of Lyndale Road, Hapton, who denied murder but was found guilty by a jury at Preston Crown Court and jailed for life, being told he would spend a minimum of 20 years in prison.
The prosecution said Fitzpatrick had killed Mr Guilfoyle out of revenge after he began seeing his ex-wife.