For many years I’ve driven to Dovestones reservoir near Saddleworth moor to receive a blast of nature. When the local and then national news started reporting on an unidentifiable man who had been found dead on a high track in December 2015 I was as curious. For months nobody knew who the man was. He wasn’t dressed for walking in the hills, carried £130 in cash and had no identification or mobile phone.
Nobody came forward to claim him despite local and national television coverage. Morgue attendants at Royal Oldham Hospital temporarily named “Neil Dovestones”. Where had he come from? A 10cm titanium surgical plate was bolted to his left femur (near the hip) which was only legal in Pakistan. Besides this there was an empty tablet jar bearing Arabic letters. His fingerprints did not match any records in Pakistan, the UK or other countries.
“Neil” had committed suicide. Investigations mooted the possibility that he could be the survivor of an aeroplane that crashed at Dovestones in 1949. Eight out of thirty-two people survived. Police thought the body may be Stephen Evans who had survived the crash and he was making a final pilgrimage but Evans was tracked down and still alive.
In January 2017 it emerged that the 67-year-old cadaver was David Lytton who had flown from Lahore in Pakistan where he’d retired in 2006 to Heathrow Airport on 10th December 2015. His family were informed and expressed surprise at the suicide. David had lived in Streatham in London from the 1980s working as a train driver and in a casino. His family said he was “a bit of a loner” and that he “liked his own company.” They had no idea why the Londoner had made the trip 200 miles north to Dovestones to end his life.
CCTV footage showed David got a train from London to Manchester and stayed at the station having something to eat for about an hour. Later he made his way to Greenfield and had a meal in The Clarence Pub (with K6 telephone box outside.) At the bar he asked for the best way to walk up to Wimberry Stones (sometimes known as Indian Head.) He was last seen alive shortly after sunset (3:59 pm) by two RSPB staff. The story stops here. Nobody knows why he chose to come here to cash in his chips.
Being a nerd I decided to visit the exact spot where he died - just off an asphalt track that leads up to Chew Reservoir. I put a Dick Francis audio book to keep me company, walked around the reservoir and then started up the 1/5 mile track that leads up to Chew reservoir.
If David was hoping to reach Wimberry Stones (known locally as "Indian's Head") he had missed it as the rocks shaped like an apache Indian’s head are on the right as you ascend the path. Perhaps he didn’t know the quickest route to it (a steep uphill climb from the stream.)
Rain came down and drenched me but I could see the blue sky in the distance so I knew my pants would soon dry. I continued upward about a mile. I had a grainy photograph showing a police car parked near the cadaver but the rain impaired its clarity. I stopped twice to compare the grey printout I had with the rocks by the track but they did not match up. On the third attempt a triangle-shaped rock told me this was the spot.
Here are the photos. I took them making sure nobody was about before I lay on the grass to demonstrate how the body had been found. Someone was walking up the path so I scrambled onto higher rocks and pretended I had not seen them. Though the body had looked at peace it probably hid a horrid death as he’d swallowed strychnine (often used as a pesticide) which can make a body arch so violently it can cause the spine to snap. There must have been less violent ways to die – a gun, a jump off a high bridge. A small portion of strychnine absorbed into the skin or eyes can have shocking affects: locking of the jaw, stiffness of the body, frothing at the mouth, asphyxiation from inner tissue paralysis, bulging eyeballs protrude and the pupils enlarge. The attacks last for three or four minutes until death ensues.
Had David killed himself through depression? A long-term girlfriend in Streatham had reported that she’d supported David through bouts of depression. She had no idea why he - a Londoner with no links to the north – would make journey to Dovestones. On the spot where David had died I wondered what had been going through his mind? Did he intend to kill himself on Indian Head but realised he was on the long route and ran out of energy? I doubt we’ll ever know.
I was going to leave one of my waterproof leaflets on the death spot. I sometimes leave them on grave stones and people get in touch but something told me I shouldn’t. I walked back down to the reservoir and got drenched again. Another box ticked though. I’ve over 1500 on my list so I think I need to retire from being a porn-worker (stagename: Studs Ramrod) and do this fulltime.
Outside The Clarence where David called for directions to Dove Stones…
Saying goodbye to Indian Head as it disappears behind a hill…
Heading away from civilisation…
The body was found here…
Eat the crisps as promised to myself…