Skeleton found with cowboy boots identified as man who disappeared decades ago

·2 min read

A skeleton found with a pair of cowboy boots three years ago has been identified as a British man who has been missing for over two decades, and local police are now investigating the unsolved case as a possible homicide.

The remains were discovered alongside the boots by a site worker at a scrapyard in the seaside town of St. Osyth in southeast England's Essex county on April 25, 2019. After years of "extensive investigations," Essex Police announced Tuesday that they have identified the deceased as William "Bill" Long, who lived in the nearby town of Jaywick and would now be in his 70s.

"The process to identify Bill has been measured and methodical. Bill’s family have been told and they now have the chance to lay him to rest," Detective Inspector Kevin Hughes of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said in a statement. "They have questions about what happened to him and our focus now is to get them answers."

MORE: 20-year-old New York woman's cold case homicide solved 42 years later

PHOTO: The scrapyard in St. Osyth, U.K., where a body was found in April 2019. Officers investigating recently identified the man as William 'Bill' Long.<p>(Essex Police (U.K.))
PHOTO: The scrapyard in St. Osyth, U.K., where a body was found in April 2019. Officers investigating recently identified the man as William 'Bill' Long.

(Essex Police (U.K.))

Investigators believe Long was last seen or thought to be alive between March 1999 and March 2000, and had a girlfriend who moved to Australia at around that time.

At this stage, Long's death is being investigated as a homicide, according to police.

"We're keeping an open mind as to what happened to Bill and how he came to be where he was found," Hughes said. "I need anyone who knew Bill, saw him, spoke to him or has any information about him or his life at the time he was last seen to come forward and speak to my team."

MORE: Colorado man arrested in 1982 cold case murders of 2 women, authorities say

PHOTO: A skeleton found in 2019 alongside cowboy boots, has recently been identified as belonging to William 'Bill' Long, and Essex man who disappeared in the 1990s. (Essex Police (U.K.))
PHOTO: A skeleton found in 2019 alongside cowboy boots, has recently been identified as belonging to William 'Bill' Long, and Essex man who disappeared in the 1990s. (Essex Police (U.K.))

Long's sister, Patricia, described him as "vulnerable and an easy target for scammers" and said her family feels "so guilty" for not going to check on him.

"After our father died in 1996, we lost contact with Bill and we're desperate for information about what happened to him," she said in a statement released through police. "It's so difficult to deal with grief and guilt when we don't know what happened."

MORE: How investigators cracked unsolved murder of Harvard graduate student nearly 50 years later

PHOTO: A photo of William 'Bill' Long, an Essex man who has been missing since the 1990s. Police recently identified his remains which were found in 2019. (Essex Police (U.K.))
PHOTO: A photo of William 'Bill' Long, an Essex man who has been missing since the 1990s. Police recently identified his remains which were found in 2019. (Essex Police (U.K.))

She urged members of the public to "help us with anything you know."

"If you are afraid and want to remain anonymous," she added, "this can be arranged."

Essex Police have set up a special online portal through which information on this case can be reported. Alternatively, people in the United Kingdom can call police by dialling 101 or contact CrimeStoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111.

Skeleton found with cowboy boots identified as man who disappeared decades ago originally appeared on abcnews.go.com