Cambridgeshire Police issue new appeal to help solve Wisbech murder case mystery
"It's an absolute mystery." Those were the words of the Cambridgeshire detective in charge of investigating the murder of a Lithuanian man from Wisbech.
Speaking at a press conference today (Wednesday) Det Insp Adam Gallop revealed new leads in the case had raised doubts as to whether Ricardas Puisys, who disappeared in September 2015, is dead or alive.
The emergence of a Facebook page set up in the 39-year-old's name, with pictures friends and family say is Ricardas, has led to a renewed appeal for the public's help in the curious case.
However, DI Gallop emphasised it is still being treated as a murder case. He said: "It is my view that after this long period of time it is unlikely this is a case of deliberate absence and for this reason this remains a murder investigation."
But he added: "The Facebook page is a lead that needs to be fully traced down. It cannot be ignored."
The page was created in July 2018 and was brought to the attention of Cambridgeshire Police by Ricardas' family in August the same year, after they received a friend request from whoever was operating the page.
DI Gallop said messages exchanged between members of Ricardas' family, including cousins living in Ireland, via Facebook messenger, suggest the page has been set-up by Ricardas, because they contain information only he would know about.
But he admitted: "It's an absolute mystery. Family and friends have exchanged messages, but it has been very limited contact and Ricardas has been quite slow to reply, or hasn't replied at all. No one has seen him or spoken to him in person."
DI Gallop said Ricardas was considered "vulnerable" and there were fears he was being exploited when he was last seen by authorities in 2015.
Members of the Operation Pheasant team, which tackles modern slavery and exploitation in Fenland, were put in contact with Ricardas during routine welfare checks in late August 2015. The team were told Ricardas had been living in a property, but had suddenly been forced to move to his last known address in Burcroft Road.
DI Gallop said: "Officers went to the address and spoke to Ricardas in person, who told them he was fine and closed the door on them."
Ricardas was considered vulnerable to exploitation because he was a "loner" with few friends, no close family in the UK and was a landworker living hand to mouth.
He had no car, could not speak a great deal of English and therefore operated mainly within the Lithuanian community in Wisbech, where he had been living for a number of years before his disappearance.
Operation Laysan was launched by Cambridgeshire police in November 2015 when the missing person case for Ricardas became a murder investigation, but DI Gallop said no-one has ever officially reported him missing.
At the time of his disappearance Ricardas was working at Nightlayer Leek Company in Chatteris through an agency. Their records show he was in work on Saturday, September 26, but despite being expected back on Monday, September 28, he never returned to the firm in Dean Drove.
DI Gallop said it is also known that later on the evening of September 26, Ricardas was in the company of a small group of Lithuanian men, but from this moment he has vanished. He has made no contact with anyone and there have been no potential sightings.
He said: "There are genuine concerns Ricardas came to harm that evening."
His identity card was found in Tillery Field park known locally as 'Doggy Park' near Cannon Street in November 2015 and DI Gallop said that would make returning home to Lithuania for Ricardas difficult, although not impossible. But, there is no evidence he has returned to Lithuania, where he originated from a town called Silute, where his mother still lives.
DI Gallop felt the card had simply been "discarded" rather than lost accidentally.
Painstaking police work has been carried out behind the scenes following the discovery of the Facebook page. DI Gallop said: "You may wonder why the Facebook page came to light over a year ago and we are only now making an appeal."
He said news of the Facebook page prompted covert police work to try to ascertain who had set up the page, which has been accessed from within the Wisbech area via an open wi-fi link.
He said: "It has been tricky and time consuming. But we have not been able to pinpoint exactly where the page has been accessed from, and we have been unable to trace the person behind it."
Officers have contacted Facebook to identify who was behind the page, which was linked to a mobile phone number. But DI Gallop said: "Facebook ask for very limited information from people setting up a page and we have tried contacting the phone number, and tracing the phone."
Having exhausted all possible covert enquiries, police have now decided to ask the public for help.
DI Gallop acknowledged the covert operation had been done partly to protect Ricardas from potential harm.
"It is possible he is being held captive. The messaging has always been late at night, and has been short, which might suggest a difficulty with accessing Facebook," said DI Gallop.
He said it is difficult to understand why someone would want to set up a Facebook page to pretend Ricardas is still alive, and described that thought as a "sick joke".
With the case now four years old and the leads drying up it would also be a strange move for someone to do if they had been involved in the disappearance.
"After this time, they would most likely feel they had got away with it, so it makes no sense for them to set up this Facebook page," added DI Gallop.
Another new lead the police are looking into is a possible link to Great Yarmouth, and those enquiries are on-going.
DI Gallop concluded: "I am convinced there are people living within Wisbech today who know what happened to Ricardas, whether he has been murdered or is deliberately absent.
"My appeal today is three fold.
"Firstly, I would appeal to Ricardas himself. We want him to contact us. If he is in any trouble we want to help him.
"Secondly, if anyone knows Ricardas, either in Wisbech or back in the day in Lithuania, and can help us find out whether he is alive or what has happened to him, then we want them to contact us.
"Thirdly, if the general public recognise these pictures and can provide information on his whereabouts, we would like to hear from them.
"I have concerns that some of the local Lithuanian community may have a natural distrust of the police and are concerned for their own safety. I urge those individuals to come forward and talk to the police, or Crimestoppers offer an alternative means to pass on information in confidence and anonymously. I have also established an online reporting portal where information can be left in person or anonymously."
Anyone with information can submit it online at https://mipp.police.uk/operation/35SA020115C09-PO1 (English) or https://mipp.police.uk/operation/35SA020115C09-PO2 (Lithuanian).
If you would prefer to speak to someone directly, please call 101 and quote Operation Laysan, or dial 01480 425883 but note this number is not monitored 24 hours a day. However, you will be able to leave a voice message and a member of the enquiry team will call you back. Alternatively, you can call the independent charity, Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555111 or go online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Policija turi informacijos ir mano, kad 2015 metais, Wisbechiuje gyvenantis dingęs lietuvis gali būti gyvas.
Ričardas Puišys, kuriam dingimo metu buvo 35 metai, paskutinį kartą buvo pastebėtas Čateryje, Dean Drove, Iretons Way, savo darbovietėje Nightlayer Leek Kompanijoje, 2015m. rugsėjo 26d.
Nepaisant didžiausių pastangų ir kreipimosi į publiką, policija jo nerado ir iki šiol tikėjo, kad jis buvo nužudytas. Buvo gauta informacija, bylojanti, kad jis galėtų būti gyvas, tačiau policija vis tiek negali jo rasti. Jeigu turite kokios nors informacijos, paskambinkite 101.
Taip pat galite anonimiškai susisiekti su nepriklausoma labdaringa įstaiga Crimestoppers telefonu 0800 555 111 arba internetu www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Watch video appeal in Lithuanian here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qGQiKw1T4&list=UUYnDoqy8XntWQ3w8w9WzG1Q&index=2.
More by this authorSarah Cliss