Hope fades for missing girl as police find body

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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

The body of a girl - almost certainly that of Rosemary McCann, aged five, who went missing while sleeping in her bedroom - was found in a bag dumped in an alley yesterday.

The dead girl, who was wearing red pyjama bottoms similar to those worn by Rosemary, was left in a narrow passage behind terraced houses in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Police found the body about 350 yards from where Rosemary was last seen seven weeks ago. The area had already been examined during a mass hunt for the girl, but a fresh search uncovered the body yesterday morning at Little Bank Street in the Roundhorn area, about a mile from Rosemary's home. Rosemary's mother, Josephine Mahon, 26, was said to be devastated last night.

The girl was last seen by her mother asleep in her bed at about midnight at their home in Kipling Road, Oldham, on 14 January. She disappeared from her bed, wearing only pyjamas, while her mother was at a neighbour's house. A babysitter was in the house, but when Ms Mahon returned at 2am the babysitter was asleep and Rosemary had gone.

A 31-year-old man, Andrew Pountley, of Kew Road, Oldham, has appeared in court charged with Rosemary's abduction. Detective Superintendent Ronald Gaffey, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "We have a man in custody and ... I will obviously be talking to him." Det Supt Gaffey admitted that the spot where the body was found had already been searched. "You must bear in mind we [searched] something like 40 square miles of Oldham originally," he said. "Today we made a more detailed search on the basis of our investigations so far and that led us here."

Home Office pathologist Dr Bill Lawlor was carrying out a post mortem examination; the body will be formally identified later. Det Supt Gaffey said it was impossible to say how long the body had lain in the passage, or what the cause of death was until after the post mortem.

Hope of finding Rosemary alive deteriorated after weeks of intensive searching failed to find the girl.