An 18-year-old man whose body was found in a wooded area in Lancashire was the victim of a horrendous and truly shocking murder, police said.
Alex Davies, from Skelmersdale, was reported missing from his home on Tuesday and his body was discovered off Parbold Hill in Parbold at about 5.25pm on Wednesday.
Formal identification is yet to take place but the family of Mr Davies have been informed and are being supported by specially trained liaison officers.
A post-mortem examination has been conducted and the cause of death established, but detectives are not disclosing the details for “operational reasons”.
The last confirmed sighting of the teenager was in Station Road in Parbold, near to the railway bridge, at about 2pm on Monday.
Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Hurst, of Lancashire Police’s major investigation team, said: “This is a truly shocking murder of a young man and my thoughts are with his family and friends at this desperately sad time.
“Alex was a much-loved son and brother and his family are obviously distraught by what has happened.
“I have a dedicated team of officers and staff working on this inquiry and we are doing all we can to find whoever it is who has committed this horrific act.
“We are keeping an open mind for the reason Alex was in the Parbold area, but it could be that he has arranged to meet someone. I would appeal to anyone with information which could assist to come forward.
“We are carrying out CCTV and house-to-house inquiries in the area to try and piece together Alex’s movements and to try to identify his killer, but I need the public’s help as someone out there could hold the key to solving this horrendous crime.
“Furthermore, if you have seen anyone acting suspiciously or any unusual behaviour in the area in recent days, please come forward.
“It may be that someone you have some suspicions about, someone you know – have they been acting out of character recently, do they have any unexplained injuries or have they come home with blood on their clothes?
“You may think you are doing the right thing protecting them, but if anyone does have suspicions about an individual I would ask them to search their conscience and do the right thing and contact police. We need to find the person who has done this.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting log reference 0460 of May 3, or independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Alternatively, information can be submitted at https://mipp.police.uk/operation/0401020119S01-PO1.