Police have ended a search for the Moors murder victim Keith Bennett without finding any sign of human remains.
Forensics officers undertook a week-long hunt for the boy’s remains after receiving information from an amateur investigator.
Russell Edwards, an author, said he was “convinced” he had found bones belonging to 12-year-old Bennett, who went missing in Manchester in 1964, but police ended their search on Friday.
Greater Manchester police (GMP) said it had closed the scene on Saddleworth Moor having concluded there was “currently no evidence to indicate the presence of human remains”.
Bennett was one of five youngsters killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s and he remains their only victim whose body has never been found.
Bennett went missing while on his way to see his grandmother in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, on 16 June 1964.
The news will come as a bitter blow to Bennett’s brother and closest surviving relative, Alan Bennett.
He wrote on Facebook this week that it was not the first time someone had contacted the press with a potential finding before contacting the police, and causing “pain, anguish and distress” that “runs right through all Keith’s siblings and then filters down through the next generations”.
He added: “I have had to explain things to my own grandchildren in more detail recently and the older they get the more questions they have. I am struggling to explain what makes certain people tick and behave the way they do, this latest example being one of the most difficult to even attempt to explain.”
The latest search began when Edwards, having given an extensive interview to MailOnline, telephoned GMP to say he had evidence to suggest that human remains were buried close to where the bodies of three other Moors murder victims had been found.
This material included soil samples taken by Edwards which, according to the geologist Lesley Dunlop, suggested a human body had been buried there. Edwards said he had found some blue and white material at the site and took a picture of an item that, according to the forensic archaeologist Dawn Keen, looked like part of a human skull.
Cheryl Hughes, the detective leading the search, said on Friday the material had been examined and “hasn’t yet indicated the presence of human remains”, although more analysis was required.
Hughes said the photograph appeared to show an item “considerably smaller than a juvenile jaw and it cannot be ruled out that it is plant-based”.
GMP stressed the investigation into Bennett’s disappearance and murder had remained open since 1964 and would not be closed until his family have answers.
Assistant chief constable Sarah Jackson said: “We have always said that we would respond, in a timely and appropriate manner, to any credible information which may lead us towards finding Keith.
“Our actions in the last week or so are a highly visible example of what that response looks like, with the force utilising the knowledge and skills of accredited experts, specialist officers and staff.
“It is these accredited experts and specialists who have brought us to a position from where we can say that, despite a thorough search of the scene and ongoing analysis of samples taken both by ourselves and a third party, there is currently no evidence of the presence of human remains at, or surrounding, the identified site on Saddleworth Moor. However, I want to make it clear that our investigation to find answers for Keith’s family is not over.”