About a month ago, this detailed feature dealing with a “Body on the Moor” appeared on the BBC’s news site. In the normal course of events, it would have stayed on the front page for a few days before disappearing forever, but for a reason or reasons I’m unaware of, it’s now reappeared.
As you’ll learn for yourself if you read this strange article, it deals with the discovery of a body on the Chew Track, close to the infamous Saddleworth Moor. The identity of the dead man remains unknown to us, despite the fact that we know a great deal of information about him, while the main thrust of the BBC article, as I see it, is that this man died of strychnine poisoning. This is an almost unheard-of cause of death in modern Britain, as the article informs us, but for me, the greatest mystery of all concerns some blatant contradictions in this investigation that no one else seems to have noticed or remarked upon, despite the length of the time that this sensational, eye-catching piece has been in front of us all on the BBC news site.
As you’ll see, the feature begins with a cyclist by the name of Stuart Crowther speaking of his discovery of this unknown man’s body. We’re told that the Chew Track is very steep and runs between two reservoirs, and that Stuart Crowther found the body on a small patch of grass beneath what are known as “Rob’s Rocks”. The cyclist said “His head was uphill and his legs were straight downhill – perfectly straight. His arms were across his chest” and he added “It just seemed odd he was lying so parallel to the path”.
Just after this, the feature tells us that a Mountain Rescue volunteer thought the man might have suffered from a heart attack, but Detective Sergeant John Coleman of Greater Manchester Police, who is leading the investigation into the dead man’s identity, thought there was something more deliberate about the man’s positioning, saying “It appeared to me that the male had sat down and had taken the conscious decision to lie backwards.”
There is self-evidently something very unusual about a dead man being found in such a place and in the highly noteworthy pose remarked upon by the man who discovered him. The policeman leading the enquiry is quoted as saying that the dead man had taken the conscious decision to lie backwards, which is fair enough, but I find myself pondering an almost insoluble problem when we come to consider precisely how this man died.
The BBC’s feature quotes Dr Hilary Hamnett from the University of Glasgow. Dr Hamnett is a forensic toxicologist who tells us that strychnine poisoning is very rare, but the part that interests and baffles me most is when she tells us that strychnine is “in the top ten of unpleasant poisons in terms of ways to die”, because of the convulsions it causes.
By an unhappy coincidence, I was hospitalised in early March after apparently suffering from a viral infection that left me unable to sit or stand, and vomiting blood. Strictly speaking, I suppose, I wasn’t poisoned, but the experience was so deeply unpleasant that there were times when I wanted to die. The moment I felt sick, I immediately turned onto my side in what I would guess was an automatic reaction to stop me choking, so I’m left wondering how on Earth a man could consume something as vile as strychnine, yet manage to lie perfectly still in an almost serene, symmetrical pose that additionally left his body parallel to a nearby path.
Not only that, but Dr Hamnett informs us strychnine poisoning causes convulsions, so I fail to see how a man who has met his death in this awful manner could possibly be found in such a pose. I am not a forensic specialist of any kind, merely a rational observer, so it seems to me that the chances of dying from strychnine poisoning while lying on your back on a steep slope, to be discovered later not only with your legs straight and your body parallel to the nearby path, but also with your arms on your chest, are remote in the extreme.
It seems to me that the most likely explanation, if I’m correct about all the information I’ve reproduced above, is that another person arranged this man’s body immediately after he died, most likely in accordance with the stated wishes of the dead man. The presence of another person at this scene is perfectly possible, as no known person observed the dead man’s final hours, while the existence of another person would go a long way towards explaining some of the other mysteries in this apparently baffling case.
“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”