The family of missing down-and-out Tommy Billington have made a final plea for help to solve the riddle of his disappearance.
The heavy drinker vanished in suspicious circumstances in Preston almost eight years ago.
Relatives fear he was killed and his body disposed of. But they say they have come up against a wall of silence on the streets as they try to unravel the mystery of what happened to a “real character” who was a familiar face to many around the city centre.
“We’ve been told by his old pals that he’s dead,” said brother-in-law Derek Brown. “But no-one is saying any more. Police have interviewed two men in prison, but they wouldn’t talk either. We’ve tried everything we can to find out the truth. So we’re making one final public appeal for information. This might be the last chance we get to solve what happened to Tommy.”
The former plumber was 66 when he went missing in June 2009. His last known address was the Swansea Terrace Nursing Home in Ashton and prior to that the Alma Hotel on Fishergate Hill. But out of the blue he vanished without trace.
“We’ve talked to a lot of vagrants in the city centre and they all say the same - Tommy is dead,” added Derek. “But no-one will go any further than that. It’s almost like they’re afraid to say.
“The police think his body may have been hidden. They’ve searched some tunnels under the city centre but found nothing. Someone must know what happened and where he is.”
Police have urged anyone who might have information about what happened to Tommy to contact them.
DI Paddy O’Neill said: “It has been many years since Thomas Billington went missing and despite the extensive investigation and search he has not yet been found. If anyone has any information at all about his disappearance or current location we would urge you to contact us on 101.”
Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The charity Missing People says there are at least 16,000 who have been missing in the UK for more than a year.