The family of a teenager who disappeared in Avenham Park may never know how he ended up in the River Ribble.Advertisement
Michael Brooks’ family have urged anyone with any information about the night he disappeared to contact police after a coroner recorded an open verdict into his death.
Preston College student Michael, 19, was found in the river in Penwortham, after a three week search by mountain rescue, fire and rescue services and friends and family in February 2018.
The last man to see him alive, Connor Rishton, told an inquest how Michael ‘disappeared into the night’ after the pair went to watch stars in Avenham Park, high on hallucinogenic drugs at around 1.20am on January 13.
A man and woman who were drinking whisky on the banks of the river said they head splashing and saw a silhouette in the water at around 1.30pm.
But when they went to investigate, using the torches on their mobile phones, they could not see anyone,
The woman said: “I didn’t understand how someone could just vanish into thin air.”
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Another witness to the inquest gave statements claiming Michael was thrown from the Old Tram Bridge by two unnamed men at knifepoint, to settle an outstanding drugs debt.
In September 2018 she told police a man – referred to in court only as ‘Y’ – had confessed to killing Michael, but investigations revealed records showing he was staying at a care home in East Lancashire on the night Michael disappeared.
Area Coroner James Newman recorded an open verdict, stating: “There are two very polar opposite accounts of how Michael has gone into the river.
“With all the best will in the world, I don’t think we are ever going to get all the answers.”
Michael’s body was recovered from the River Ribble, near the Bullnose, on February 6.
Police launched a missing person’s appeal on Sunday February 14 after Michael’s friends told a support worker at the Lawson Street project where he lived he had not returned from the park.
For three weeks, family and friends scoured the area around the park, looking for clues, as search teams used all the resources they had to try and piece together Michael’s final movements.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service deployed drones, search and rescue boats and underwater search teams in a bid to find Michael’s body.
A post mortem into his death revealed he had drowned but did not find any other signs of injury.
“In a statement, Michael’s mum Joanne said: “I know nothing that happens today (at the inquest) will change the outcome.
“I’m not a crazy mum looking for justice. I am a heartbroken mum looking for answers.
“Michael was happy-go-lucky, a little vulnerable. He had so much energy and often stood out from the crowd.
“His friends brought out the best in my amazing son. He had so much to live for.”
Michael’s aunt, Cheryl Stewart, said: “We don’t want rumours or further upset or confusion, but we would appeal for people to think back to that day, and anything that sticks out – please, go to the police.”
Thoughts with Michael’s family and friends. Leave your tributes in the comments section.