Police investigating the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis have arrested a 14-year-old from the same school on suspicion of his murder.
A body believed to be that of Joe Geeling was found hidden inside a 10ft gully in a park at 11am yesterday, more than 16 hours after he was last seen, walking home from St Gabriel's Catholic High School in Bury, Greater Manchester.
The body was covered with debris, and positive identification proved difficult for police. Forensic officers spent hours carefully removing the debris for scientific analysis and as darkness fell officers were still awaiting clearance to reclaim the body.
St Gabriel's is a 15-minute walk from Joe's home on Devon Street, but he usually made the journey with a friend. His friend did not attend school on Wednesday, and it is thought he set out by himself.
Superintendent Peter Schofield, of Greater Manchester Police, said the 14-year-old was arrested an hour after the body was found in a gully masked by trees at the side of Whitehead Park, Bury.
"We cannot say anything about the relationship between the two individuals other than that they went to the same school," he said. The park is only a mile from the school, but in the opposite direction to Joe's home.
Joe, who has a six-year-old brother, James, seemed happy when he was dropped off at school by his mother.
Friends and family gathered outside the family's terraced home and hugged one another. Many broke down as they heard of the discovery. His grandmother, Margaret Lynch, said he was "a normal, sensible, level-headed boy... a happy little lad".
The child's disappearance prompted a large-scale search by police. They voiced grave concerns for his safety because of his medical condition, which requires daily treatment, and the overnight temperatures, which dropped to -5C.
Search parties including police, Joe's family and neighbours checked woodland around St Gabriel's school on Wednesday night and the search resumed yesterday morning, when the body was found.
A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "Joe had cystic fibrosis, but you wouldn't have known it. He could ride a bike and he was active."
The headmaster at St Gabriel's, Eddie Robinson, said his thoughts and prayers were with Joe's parents, Gwen and Thomas, and his brother.
Parents arriving to collect their children from the school spoke of their shock. John Whittaker said: "Joe was just a wonderful, wonderful boy. We're devastated about the news."
St Gabriel's, which has specialist school status as a science college, was commended for its pastoral care in an Ofsted inspection last September. "The quality of the care and support pupils receive is outstanding and contributes to their excellent personal development, exemplary attendance, attitudes and behaviour," the inspectors said.Reuse content