Date: 6 Jan 2014
Craig Wilcox was found dead in Dove Stone Reservoir, Saddleworth on 24 February 2014.
He was last seen at a relative’s house in Norfolk Crescent, Failsworth about seven weeks earlier on 6 January 2014 at about 7pm. When he had left, he had not said where he was going.
Six men aged between 25 and 52 were initially arrested over his murder, but no one was charged. The men had also been charged with the production of cannabis.
His post-mortem was inconclusive, but the police said that they suspected he had been murdered. The pathologist said that Craig Wilcox had no major injuries and that because he had been in the water for so long, it was not possible to say whether he drowned. however, the pathologist said that on the balance of probabilities, he thought that Craig Wilcox had died from immersion in the water due to either drowning or hypothermia. However, the pathologist noted that there were no witnesses and observed that there were a range of possibilities regarding his death, including an accident, as well as murder.
The Coroner said that there was insufficient evidence to record a verdict of unlawful death and an open verdict was returned.
He had been found in the lake by underwater search teams after a walker spotted a body floating in the water. He was missing one of his blue canvass Vans training shoes.
The police said that they traced Craig Wilcox's phone to the Newton Heath area through to Oldham town centre and then on to the Dove Stone area where it arrived at about 10.10pm after which they traced it going back towards the Newton Heath leaving Dove Stone at about 10.30pm. However, the police said that when the phone came back, they didn't think that Craig Wilcox had been with it. The police also noted that another person's phone also mirrored the journey to Dove Stone and back. The police that that the times had left a window of 20 minutes during which Craig Wilcox and one or more people had been at the reservoir.
It was also suggested that Craig Wilcox might have been abducted and then taken to the reservoir.
Craig Wilcox's SIM card from his phone was later found in another person's phone. His mobile phone was later discovered in January 2015.
The police said that Craig Wilcox didn't have his own transport and that he had no reason to have been in the Dove Stone area especially at that time of night. The police said that they were trying to find out who he had been with, how he had got there, and why.
It was thought that he had been killed after he was wrongly accused of stealing cannabis plants. It was thought that he had been made to watch small-scale cannabis farms in Oldham and Newton Heath and that when one of the properties was broken into and all the plants taken, that he had got the blame for it and was killed. He vanished six days after the robbery. Craig Wilcox was described as a gardener at the properties.
One of the properties had been on Crosby Road in Newton Heath, where he had been living. The Crosby Road property was run by a man from the Bolton area. The other property was on Cedar Crescent in Chadderton and was run by a separate gang from Manchester. It was the property on Cedar Crescent that was burgled and had had all its plants stolen. It was burgled on 4 January 2014. After that, Craig Wilcox told friends that he was being pursued because of it. It was noted that there was no evidence that Craig Wilcox had been involved in the burglary.
On the night that he went missing, Craig Wilcox had left his family home in Failsworth because one of the cannabis gangs had threatened to pay him a visit there. It was heard that Craig Wilcox had been living in fear, saying that some lads were after him.
The police said that they thought that Craig Wilcox was naive, and he was being exploited, and that they didn't believe he had anything to do with the theft'.
Craig Wilcox had a six-year-old son at the time of his murder.