A WEST Lothian family are set to lay their son to rest – 23 years after he went missing.
Derek Burns of West Calder disappeared on March 10, 1989, and his family made numerous appeals for information on his whereabouts.
Now following an investigation by British Transport Police, Lothian and Borders Police, the UK Missing Persons Bureau and Islington Council, Derek’s body has been identified as having been found in West Hampstead, London, just after he went missing.
The 20-year-old died after being struck by a train.
Derek was identified using advanced DNA profiling techniques not available to investigators at the time of his death in 1989.
And now his family have spoken of their relief that their son has been identified.
Derek Burns Sr said: “We are relieved that our son has now been found and we can at last put our minds at peace.
“We are very grateful to the police for the work and effort they’ve put in, and would also like to thank the help and assistance we’ve had over the years from the charity Missing People.
“Finally, I would like to pass my thanks to all those in West Calder who have been so helpful and supportive during what was a very difficult and sad time for us.”
Mr Burns said he had only happy memories of his son.
He added: “Derek was a happy boy and one of the terms he was known by when he was young was ‘Jolly Boy’. We did many things together as a family and he and his older brother had great times together. Looking back over the photographs gives us great pleasure.
“The morning he went missing I was going to the Borders and popped into his room to see if he would like to come with me. The weather was awful and he said ‘no thanks Dad,’ so I said okay and left.
“He did not appear for dinner that night or contact us, which was very unusual for him as he was a home person.
“We subsequently found out that he had gone to London to see his girlfriend and find a job. I think it may have been a spur of the moment thing as he left without his driving licence, passport or any spare clothes or toiletries.
“There had been no place to stay at his friend’s flat in London, so he left to come home, and the lack of identification has been the major cause of delay in identifying him.”
Despite numerous enquiries, police were unable to identify Derek’s body.
The incident was declared non-suspicious by investigators and, following an inquest held at St Pancras Coroner’s Court where an open verdict was recorded, the unidentified man’s body was interred in a grave at the Islington and Camden Cemetery in East Finchley.
Recent enquiries by BTP investigators established that on the day of the incident, Derek had visited his girlfriend at her address close to West Hampstead Station before discovering that she was ending the relationship.
He had been reported missing to Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland the day before and, after seeing his girlfriend, was never seen again.
Following this key breakthrough, DNA samples were collected from the body in the cemetery, as well as from Derek’s relatives. The samples were then sent to a laboratory for DNA profiling, with Derek Burns’ identity confirmed through his biological ties to his family.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor, leading the inquiry, said: “Derek Burns’ family will clearly have many unanswered questions about what took place that day, and about the circumstances leading up to Derek’s death, but we hope this will provide them with some comfort, solace and ultimately a form of closure.”