POLICE search teams have been scouring a wood outside Bolton-by-Bowland in a hunt for a murder victim who may have been buried there in 2005.
Residents were baffled to see police cars and vans descend on a layby near Admiral’s Wood, off Gisburn Road.
Officers in white forensic suits and dogs trained to sniff out corpses began combing the woods on Saturday and were still searching yesterday afternoon.
The body is believed to be that of David Guilfoyle, a wealthy Accrington businessman involved in the criminal underworld. It was believed the man convicted of his murder, Shane Fitzpatrick, serving a life sentence in Garth Prison, Leyland, was helping the search.
Mr Guilfoyle (37), an England international level pool player, disappeared after watching the Liveroool-AC Milan European soccer final in May 2005, at the Grey Horse pub, Whalley Road, Accrington. He had driven away in his green Jaguar XK8 convertible.
His girlfriend, Debbie Fitzpatrick, and friends reported Mr Guilfoyle missing after becoming worried when he did not answer his mobile phone.
Traces of his blood were found on outside walls of his bungalow in Royds Avenue, Accrington, and police believed he was the victim of a savage attack, although it was not initially a murder inquiry.
Mr Guilfoyle was described as “a self-made man” who owned rented properties in Hyndburn and travelled the world.
He had been convicted of smuggling cigarettes and possessing forged banknotes, but police said he was “not a criminal mastermind” and ruled out a gangland killing. Police later arrested Shane Fitzpatrick (35), of Lyndale Road, Hapton, who denied murder but was found guilty by a jury at Preston Crown Court and jailed for life, being told he would spend at least 20 years in prison.
The prosecution said Fitzpatrick killed Mr Guilfoyle out of revenge after he began seeing his ex-wife. He was described in court as “a violent and jealous man driven by the competing passions of love and hate to kill the man he perceived as having stolen his wife”.
Mr Guilfoyle’s teenage daughter, Sammy Feeley, had clung to the hope her father would come home, and a senior detective said after the murder trial: “She is his only child but has been robbed of the chance to give him a decent Christian burial.”
Speaking at the scene of the search on Wednesday, Det. Supt Paul Withers said: “Shane Fitzpatrick has been serving a custodial sentence but never admitted his guilt and never answered questions until recently when he indicated he wanted to speak to us.
“Two officers visited him at Garth Prison when he basically admitted his guilt, admitted responsibility for the murder and indicated the body had been buried in a shallow grave in Admiral’s Wood.
“He expressed remorse for his actions and indicated he had given up the body as it was the right thing to do especially for Mr Guilfoyle’s friends and family. He has had a lot of time to think about things and deeply regrets what he did.”
Det. Supt. Withers said Fitzpatrick had chosen Bolton by Bowland to dispose of the body as he was a fell runner who had competed in Bowland Harriers fell races and knew the area.
Det. Supt. Withers added the search involved 25 police officers co-ordinated by a specialist search adviser and on Wednesday they were joined by soldiers from the army’s 33 Engineers Regiment who were giving advice on signs of ground disruption.
Forensic archaeologists are also working with the search team. Det. Supt. Withers added: “Fitzpatrick was brought to the scene on Tuesday morning and indicated an area, but it was difficult for him with the passage of time, there has been some logging in the wood, and, of course, it was dark when he buried the body.”
Also on Wednesday a mechanical digger was brought to the scene and was on standby.