Inquest opens into Ellen's tragic death

Police searching for a missing Wigan student found her body in bushes at a popular beauty spot, an inquest heard.
Ellen HigginbottomEllen Higginbottom
Ellen Higginbottom

The hearing at Bolton Coroner’s Court was opened yesterday into the death of 18-year-old Ellen Higginbottom.

It was told she had last been seen alive at Winstanley College, where she was a student, and the alarm was raised on Friday, June 16, when she did not return home.

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Police-coroner’s liaison officer Julieann Hyde said: “When she did not return home that evening she was reported to police as a missing person.

“Police carried out a search of Orrell Water Park, as this is where she had gone for a walk. Ellen’s body was discovered in bushes.”

Paramedics attended and confirmed that she had died, the inquest heard.

A post-mortem examination was carried out at Royal Oldham Hospital and the cause of death was found to be “incised wounds to the neck”.

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Ellen, who lived in Boothstown, was formally identified at the hospital by her uncle Philip David Higginbottom.

The hearing was told criminal proceedings were under way and someone had appeared in court in connection with Ellen’s death.

Coroner Alan Walsh said he would not yet release her body due to the ongoing police investigation.

He formally adjourned proceedings and said they would resume on Monday, October 30, at the same court. But he warned it could be further adjourned due to the criminal inquiry.

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Mark Steven Buckley, 51, of New Hall Lane, Preston, has been charged with Ellen’s murder. He appeared in court last week and was remanded in custody until a further hearing at Manchester Crown Court on September 4. He did not enter a plea.

David Steele, 47, of Oakley Avenue, Billinge, was charged with perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods. He also did not enter a plea and was remanded into custody to appear on the same day and at the same court

Dean Speakman and his partner Vicki Calland, both 30, and from Cob Moor Avenue, Billinge, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.

Both admitted they handled a mobile phone, laptop and other property belonging to Ellen and that they destroyed the property believing she had been murdered.

They will both be sentenced at a later date.

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