A skeleton found alongside a pair of cowboy boots has been identified - and police are investigating the discovery as a possible homicide.
The family of William "Bill" Long lost contact with him in the 1990s and now, with the help of a forensic anthropologist, the skeleton has been identified as his.
It was discovered at a scrapyard in the beachside town of St Osyth, Essex, in 2019, prompting intensive investigations into who the remains belonged to and how they died.
This included not only work with the anthropologist but also a review of historic missing person reports, and checks with financial institutions, the NHS, and the Department of Work and Pensions.
Mr Long would now be aged in his 70s and was from the nearby Tendring area. It's thought he did casual work at the scrapyard.
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."
He appealed for anyone who knew Bill, saw him, spoke to him or has any information about him, to come forward.
Mr Long's sister, Patricia, said that after their father died in 1996 the family lost contact with Mr Long.
She said, in a statement issued through police, her brother was "vulnerable" and an "easy target for scammers" and that the family felt guilty for not checking in with him.
"We're desperate for information about what happened to him," she said. "It's so difficult to deal with grief and guilt when we don't know what happened."
Mr Long's death is being investigated as a homicide but police say they are keeping an open mind about what happened.
• People can submit any relevant information 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.