A skeleton found alongside a pair of cowboy boots has been identified as a man whose family lost contact with him in the 1990s, with police investigating his death as a homicide.
The remains of William “Bill” Long were found by a site worker at a scrapyard in St Osyth in 2019, Essex Police said.
The force said it is not known what Mr Long did for long-term work, but he did casually work at the scrapyard.
Mr Long, who would now be aged in his 70s and was from the Tendring area, was identified after extensive investigations, police said on Wednesday.
This included work with a forensic anthropologist to establish when the person was likely to have died, a review of historic missing person reports, and checks with financial institutions, the NHS, and the Department of Work and Pensions.
Police believe Mr Long was last seen, or believed to be alive, between March 1999 and March 2000 and had a girlfriend who had moved to Australia at about that time.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hughes, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “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.
“They have questions about what happened to him and our focus now is to get them answers.
“We’re keeping an open mind as to what happened to Bill and how he came to be where he was found.
“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.”
Mr Long’s sister, Patricia, said that after their father died in 1996 the family lost contact with Mr Long.
“We’re desperate for information about what happened to him,” she said, in a statement issued through police.
“He was vulnerable and an easy target for scammers and we feel so guilty that we didn’t go back to Jaywick to make sure he was OK.
“The next thing we knew was when detectives came and told us Bill’s remains had been found.
“It’s so difficult to deal with grief and guilt when we don’t know what happened.
“If you are afraid and want to remain anonymous this can be arranged.
“Please help us with anything you know.”
Mr Long’s skeletal remains were found at a scrapyard near to Cockett Wick Lane on April 25 2019.
Having identified him, police are now focused on investigating how Mr Long came to be where his remains were found, the circumstances which led up to his death, and when he died.
His death is being investigated as a homicide but police say they are keeping an open mind about what happened.
Police have set up a special online portal through which information can be reported: https://mipp.police.uk/operation/4201020119N79-PO2
People can also submit a report online at www.essex.police.uk or use the ‘Live Chat’ button to speak to an online operator between 7am to 11pm, quoting the crime reference number 42/64620/19.
Alternatively, call police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.