No-one will ever know how teenager died after he went missing 15 years ago
Lewis Haines, aged 19, from Gleadless, went missing after a night out in Sheffield city centre in June 1995. An “extensive” police investigation into his disappearance looked into theories that he had been murdered or even kidnapped.
Parts of Lewis’s skeleton were found in the River Don in the months after his mysterious disappearance – but carbon dating techniques misled officers by suggesting the bones were from the 1950s.
Lewis’s mother Julie Haines endured over a decade of uncertainty, not knowing whether her child was alive or dead, and wasn’t told about the bones at the time as police could not be sure the remains belonged to her son.
Following advances in DNA technology, the remains were confirmed as Lewis’s last year.
The teenager’s dad, Tony, had already died without knowing his son’s fate.
Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard Lewis might have fallen into the River Sheaf or Porter Brook while taking a short cut home from the Europa nightclub on Eyre Street.
Peter Berry, Sheffield Council’s land drainage manager, told the inquest it was possible Lewis’s body parts were then transported along the river through culverts into the River Don.
Assistant deputy coroner Donald Coutts-Wood recorded a narrative verdict and said: “We don’t know the circumstances as to how, when, or even where Lewis died.”
After the inquest Det Supt Ian Harding, who leads South Yorkshire Police’s cold case review team, said he wished he could give Julie “the total truth” about Lewis’s death, but added: “Unfortunately that’s just impossible.”
The court heard Lewis regularly used cannabis as well as ecstasy and amphetamines. He met up with best friend Michael Seeley on June 9, 1995, at around 6pm, and then went into Sheffield with other pals.
Michael said Lewis seemed “very happy”, but that he couldn’t find him when he left Europa with girlfriend Lucy Butterley at around 2.30am.
“He went to the bar and I never saw him again,” he said.
Simon Carter, a crime investigator for the cold case review team, said CCTV footage showed Lewis leaving the club at 11.50pm.
He said: “He turns left towards the city centre, then is seen going back across the camera heading towards the Bramall Lane area.”
In a statement, a man named James Moyes told the inquest he lost his footing and almost fell into the Porter Brook in September 1996, while taking a shortcut to Sidney Street after being refused entry to The Leadmill nightclub.
He said: “I landed on concrete – if I had landed in the water I wouldn’t have been able to get out. If my friends hadn’t been with me no-one would’ve heard my cries. Ultimately the accident would have led to my death.”
Geoffrey Turner, formerly a police underwater search diver, said the team was scouring the River Don in December 1997 when he found an upper arm bone “sticking out” of a pile of debris near Norfolk Bridge in Attercliffe. Pieces of a human pelvis had been found elsewhere in the river in February 1996.
Last year, the National Policing Improvement Agency asked all forces to review unidentified bodies on their files.
Timothy Clayton, from the Forensic Science Service, said DNA samples had been taken from Lewis’s family in 2003 and a “very significant match” was returned when data from the bones was used to search their databases.
Mrs Haines declined to comment on the verdict after the inquest.