Friday, January 29, 2016
The Saddleworth air crash of 1949
Earlier this week Newsnight reported on a mystery - you can see the report below.
On 11 December a man travelled from Ealing Broadway to Euston and then caught the train to Manchester. He then made his way to Saddleworth Moor, where his body was found the next day.
He has still not been identified, which is mysterious enough. But, as Newsnight reported, Greater Manchester Police have added to the mystery.
Perhaps fuelled by watching too many reruns of Lewis on ITV3, they have suggested that the man's death may be connected with an air crash that took place near where the body was found.
In 1949 a British European Airways Douglas DC-3 on a flight from Belfast Nutts Corner Airport to Manchester came down at Saddleworth. You can see some scraps of footage of the wreckage above.
The crew and 21 of the 29 passengers on board died. But among the survivors were two little boys. That is what interested the police. Could one of them be the mystery body, grown old and gone back for a final pilgrimage to the site of the crash?
The boy survivors were Stephen Evans (5) and Michael Prestwich (2).
Michael, the 2016 press agrees, died at the age of 12 in a railway accident. It sounds as though he did not have the misfortune to be caught up in two disasters but was hit by a train on the way home from school.
A search of The British Newspaper Archive does not reveal a report of his death, but does throw up headlines like 'Michael (2) gets family fortune' and 'Boy who survived air crash inherits £35,000,' because the rest of his family died at Saddleworth.
But could the body be Stephen Evans?
No. Because, as Newsnight revealed, he is now a distinguished professor and lives on the south coast.
The latest theory is that the mystery man is Hugh Toner from Armagh, who has not seen his family for 20 years.
The moral, as ever, is that the recent past is a stranger place than we think and that stories that once hogged the headlines are soon forgotten.