Man’s death is still a mystery after 30 years
THE journey from Laurence Winstanley’s local pub to his mum’s house would normally take him just a few minutes. But 30 years ago, on October 2, 1988, the last time he was seen alive, why did that same journey take him over an hour?
It’s just one of several crucial questions detectives have wrestled with ever since the 23-year-old mechanic’s mutilated and partly burned body was found wrapped in a curtain and weighed down with a pick-axe head in Baitings Dam near Littleborough .
Laurence had been shot once to the head. At the time, detectives said they believed it was a gangland ‘execution,’ but the killer has never been found.
Now on the 30th anniversary of Laurence’s disappearance, detectives have renewed their appeal for information.
The car mechanic moved with his family from Ogden, Rochdale, to a home on Cliff Hill Road in Shaw, about a year before he was last seen.
Laurence left Roch Valley High School in Milnrow with seven O-levels and owned his own garage in Sholver, Oldham at the time of his disappearance.
On the night of October 2, 1988, he went for a drink at his local, The Windsor, where he received a phone call which seemed to concern him.
After leaving the pub, he went to his mother’s house in Shaw.
The journey would usually take a few minutes, but that night it took him more than an hour. Detectives still do not know what delayed him.
Later he went back to the pub, but was never seen alive again.
A couple of days after he went missing, a man took Laurence’s red Ford Cortina estate car to a scrap merchant in the Oldham area, and gave the name Burrows. He has never been traced.
Laurence’s mutilated body was discovered almost a year later on September 26, 1989, in the reservoir, just off the A58, on the outskirts of Ripponden, West Yorkshire.
The case featured on Crimewatch in 1989 and more than 80 officers swooped on homes in Rochdale and Littleborough in January 1990.
But Laurence’s murderer has never been found, despite his desperate mother putting up £25,000 from her savings as a reward for information in October 2001 – and the police putting up a £10,000 reward on the 20th anniversary of his body being discovered.
In January last year, the case made the headlines again when police divers searched a pond off Blackstone Edge Road in Littleborough as part of the investigation.
At the time, a West Yorkshire Police spokesman said ‘inquiries remain ongoing’ and that the force had made a ‘key commitment that a case is never closed until it is resolved.’
And Det Supt Jim Dunkerley, from West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry team, renewed an appeal for members of the public to come forward with information.
He said: “It’s now 30 years since Laurence went missing and his subsequent murder.
“The amount of time that has passed in no way diminishes our desire to achieve justice for the victim and his family.
“Laurence’s murder was a targeted attack, we believe that his killer did not act alone. I would urge anyone who may hold any information to come forward and assist in bringing the killers to justice.
“It’s possible someone had suspicions back then that they didn’t feel they could act on, but now feel differently.
“That person could hold the key to finding the answers we and the family are so desperate for.
“Any small bit of information could help to unlock the answers and bring some closure for his family after all these years.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Cold Case Review Team quoting crime ref number 13090263170 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
●●The body of Laurence Winstanley (inset) was found in Baitings Dam in 1989
●●Vanessa Winstanley, tLaurence’s mother at a press conference in 2009