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Rusty key helped to unlock bones mystery in Arundel
The body of a man who had been missing for 14 years was identified thanks to a rusty key.
A dog-walker found human bones in Burpham, near Arundel, in February 2012, but police did not know who they belonged to.
But nowthey have been identified as Carl Johnston, who would have been 67 when he was discovered.
Police identified the bones as Mr Johnston thanks to clever scientific techniques and a lot of tenacity.
A shoulder bag found nearby the bones, and believed to be connected, contained a few personal items including reading glasses which were missing the lenses, a wrist watch and three old keys.
Scenes of crimes officers used acetone to clean the rust from the keys and one revealed a serial number.
Police went on to link this number to the door it fitted. DC Alison Hoad contacted the NPIA Missing Persons Bureau and one person was showing with links to this address and also West Sussex who had been missing since 1999 – Mr Johnston.
She then visited the family of Mr Johnston, of Battersea, London, who confirmed that he had not been seen for 14 years.
The body was subsequently identified as his, and an inquest recently recorded an open verdict, bringing a close to 14 years of uncertainty for his family.
Referring to the situation on his Sussex Police People blog, Scenes of Crime Officer Chris Gee said it was like a “jigsaw puzzle”.
He said: “Mr Johnston had links to the area they were found at by the dogwalker, and had genetic similarities to the family.
“The forensic service provider performed a basic DNA comparison with the deceased’s relative, and came to the conclusion that there was a one in 40 chance of them being related.
“During the post-mortem at the beginning of the investigation, the forensic anthropologist gave an indication towards the age the person was when they died.
“But no cause of death could be determined. The coroner was happy that no further work was needed. The family were notified of all findings.”
Explaining he was glad to bring “closure”
to Mr Johnston’s family, he said: “DC Hoad set a fantastic example of how persistence and attention to the finer detail can really pay off.
“Everyone else had overlooked the keys, but our two minds made this cold case heat up. I’m really pleased we could present our findings to the family and offer them their relative back, someone they had lost for so long.”
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