'The Smiley Face Killers.' - The Beginning
The Manchester Pusher
Based on the book 'An investigation into the Horrifying Case of 'The Smiley Face Killers.'
In June 2012, Chris Brahney had been to a rock concert on the outskirts of Manchester with a group of friends. After it finished he decided to go into the City Centre to retrieve a new pair of trainers he’d hidden earlier in a car park rather than carry then at the concert all night.
CCTV (on YouTube) captures over ten minutes of his journey, from retrieving the trainers in a shopping bag to carrying them through street after street in the city centre.
He can clearly be seen walking in a perfectly capable and coherent manner through the streets from around 1.45am until the last CCTV camera films him walking through a passage.
He is not stumbling or wandering around without co-ordination. In other words, he does not appear at all inebriated or under the influence of drugs.
Ten days later, his body is found in the Canal. What the police still do not know is how he ended up in the canal. The spot where he was thought to have entered the water has a high railing that would have required climbing.
“While CCTV follows his movements, we still cannot say how or why he died,” the police said.
The spot in which he died was not covered by CCTV. The police also made it clear they had no evidence leading it to be considered suspicious, despite the fact that the coroner found him to have a fractured cheekbone, bruising and cuts to his face post-mortem.
There were traces of alcohol in his body, and indeed the drug MDMA. Clearly, one could argue the drug caused him to climb up the fence, and jump over it into the canal, although it does beg the question how he managed to find his shoes and walk so capably through the city center without any signs of being influenced and made incapable by a drug?
Interestingly, the forensic pathologist Ms. Carter stated that because the injuries he had sustained had no bruising, they would have happened after his death not prior to his death. In other words, this ruling would imply that he died or was killed without these injuries, then suffered the injuries afterwards. He didn’t experience the injuries as a result of throwing himself in the water in a desire to commit suicide. And if the injuries occurred after death, he didn’t not inflict them himself.
Did he encounter someone in the canal area who offered him the drug? Did the drug then make him jump into the canal? Or was he placed into the canal? The chip from his phone was later traced to Edinburgh, Scotland.
David Paulides of Missing 411 has written on some of these cases, although they appeared first in my series of ' In the Woods Books. '
In York, one and a half hours from Manchester, the Newspapers wrote, “CCTV issued as the search continues for missing man.” It was March 2nd 2014 and Ben Clarkson, 22, slim with light brown hair, had gone missing in York. He had disappeared after leaving a nightclub alone to walk home, and the police had released new CCTV images. This time however, the images they released were not of the student, but rather, it was that of two other males who had been seen in the vicinity of the now missing student.
One of them was a man they believe was talking to him in the smoking area of the nightclub he was in, not long before the student left the nightclub. They described him as “white, with short dark hair, wearing a red checked shirt, a white t-shirt, and dark trousers.”
The other man was also a young white male, seen walking along the same road as the missing student but on the opposite side of the road. He too was a young white male. He walked along Stonebow, heading towards the junction with Foss Islands Road, on the opposite side of the road to Ben. A short time later, this person takes the same route past the junction along Layerthorpe. Nothing suspicious there necessarily.
However, the last confirmed sighting of the student was just moments later, near to the junction of James Street, on the same road, Layerthorpe. It was 3.40am on Sunday 2 March 2014. Inspector Neil Drummond said in a statement, "I urge either of you to get in touch with us. I am sure the person who walked along Layerthorpe will have seen Ben as he made his way home and will be able to help identify the route he took.
He also commented, "I need to speak to the man at Fibbers as although he spoke with Ben, his friends didn't recognize him, and I ask that he also get in touch.”
Asking the general public too, he asked that anyone who recognized the two men from the released CCTV, also contact the police or forward their contact details to them.
The area in which Ben had disappeared was not isolated, yet he seemingly vanished after that, with no further CCTV images available of him along his continued route, if he did indeed continue to walk along. That would seem strange then.
Over the following days, neither man came forward, and the police continued their public appeals, their concern growing over the missing young man. Ben was of slight build, with mousy blonde hair, and to all observers, would have been seen as a gentle soul, with delicate features and a softness to him.
Police officers had been out in force searching for him since the disappeared that night, paying particular attention to the route he was last seen taking when he inexplicably vanished. A regional underwater search team was brought in to search the nearby waterway, and trained scent dogs were used to try to pick up on his scent. The underwater search team had carried out searches of the River Foss, between the Foss Basin, in the heart of the small City, up to Huntington Road 45 minutes-walk away, following the route of the River Foss. Scanning equipment was utilized in the river, while policemen searched the river ‘by hand.’ The police did say that the river was a shallow and slow flowing one and was relatively free of debris, meaning that if he was in there, they should have been able to ‘feel’ for him, or the sonar should have picked him up.
Interestingly, Sergeant Steve Birss of the specialist Marine unit and in charge of co-ordinating the search said, “From a safety point of view, most of the river is reasonably well covered with railings. At its deepest, this is 1.5 metres.”
If it was mostly covered by rail guards, how could he have reasonably fallen into the water? And, if it was just 1.5 metres deep, how would he have drowned?
As the days passed with still no news of the missing man, underwater searches continued to focus on the Heworth Green area of the river, north of the road he had last been seen on. Had the scent dogs traced him to that area? Or was it because that was the most likely route he would have taken had he continued northwards on that stretch of road. The police did not release any information about that.
Meanwhile his family made statements appealing to the general public to come forward if they had any information about their missing son, even if it was the smallest, most trivial detail; they had nothing to go on and no way to understand how he had seemingly vanished while walking along a main road. They said he would never disappear and not contact them. He had never done it before, and they could find no reason why he would do it now. It was completely out of character. He had a job at a record shop in the town center, having graduated from the University, and he would never not turn up for work.
Meanwhile, the River Ouse Safety Unit, started urging people to stay together as a group when they went out at night, in order to stop these tragic ‘accidents’ from happening. “Watch out for each other and stay together when heading home so that if an accident happens, there someone to raise the alarm.”
For days after Ben went missing, the search was as intensive as possible. The sense of urgency was indicated in each day’s local newspaper reports.
Then his body was found in the river. From looking closely at the area map, it does not appear that the river runs alongside the road he was walking on. It appears that he would have had to turn left off the main road, Layerthorpe, and walked down a street to reach the riverside, behind shops including a Mazda car dealership and a Taxi company, a car accessories shop and ASDA supermarket. His body was found in the river there, at the point of his last known sighting.
If the police knew that had been the site of his last known location, and had utilized tracker dogs and searched the river there, why was it that it took 3 weeks to find his body, in a river described by Head of the Marine Unit as 1.5 metres deep, quite free of debris, and slow running?
At the young man’s inquest, his family had to have a combined inquest with that of another deceased person, because the Coroner believed it would serve as a warning to others not to risk falling in the river after a night out. The Coroner, Donald Coverdale, decided to rule on both his and a young woman’s deaths as “accidental drownings” together and spoke out to raise people’ awareness of drinking too much when out with friends in the town.
20-year-old student Megan Roberts’s body had been found just weeks earlier in the same river, again, after a night out drinking. A young soldier too had drowned in the river, jumping in when dared to, but failing to make it out alive, again after a night out with Army friends. The Coroner, and the families of the victims, believed that by raising the profile of these cases, it would serve to help save other young people from the same tragic fate.
Coming armed with the knowledge and facts that the phenomenon of organized “drownings” have been taking place in the USA over a period of 20 years now, by groups at present unnamed but nevertheless powerful in number and fully operational, could it really be that the same modus operandi is taking place across cities in the U.K.?
Gavin Terry was also found dead in the River Aire, in 2008. 19-year-old student Gavin disappeared after a night out drinking with friends. His body was found in the river Aire also, near Skelton garage, 3.9 miles away from where he had disappeared. Gavin again, was slim, and in fact he had a gentle and delicate look about him. It was the 11th of January when he went missing. It was not until the 20th of March that his body was found, more than two months later.
Is it important that he went missing and was found on dates of occult significance? 11 is the highest occult ‘power number.’ The 20th, 2+0 making it 2. In Chaldean numerology 20 is the number of ‘awakening’ but also of ‘judgment.’ It is interpreted as ‘a call to duty’ or ‘a call to action,’ for some ‘great purpose.’ According to Dr. R. Allendy it represents two antagonistic opposites; that of matter and spirit. To J. Boeheme it is ‘the number of the Devil.’
11 is a Master Magic Number. Kabbalists see 11 as the essence of all that is harmful, imperfect and sinful. It is a symbol of destruction, violence, defeat and death, according to Westcott, W. Wynn, in ‘Kabbalists, Pythagoreans, Adepts of India, Chaldean Magi and Medieval Magicians.’
Gavin had been drinking on the night he disappeared. The Coroner ruled, as expected, ‘accidental drowning.’ He believed Gavin had ‘plunged into the river from near to Riverside Court after a night drinking.’ His body was found two months later, two miles down-river. CCTV footage appeared to show the last sighting of him near Riverside Court, which leads to the River. However, there is a barrier at the end of the road, before the river.
The Coroner said “Mr. Terry had for some reason fallen over or through the waist-high pole fence at the bottom of Riverside Court. There was nothing to suggest any injury or suspicious circumstance.”
Perhaps he is right. Perhaps it is difficult to establish which of the cases are nefarious and which are, as he says, tragic accidents. His body was found in the same river 3.9 miles away at Skelton Grange. In the weeks that followed his disappearance, the police had carried out underwater searches of the river. A Waterways workman on a boat on the river at Skelton Grange spotted the body. It had apparently been trapped under water, in a tree, but became visible as the water level dropped.
Matthew Wilcox’s death, in the same spot in 2010, was ruled ‘a carbon copy’ of Gavin’s. Matthew Wilcox, 6 ft 1”, slim, blonde, is also believed to have fallen into the river off Riverside Court, again over the barrier in place. On Friday, February 26th, he went missing. His body was found on March 5th 2010. He was 3 times the drink-drive limit. He had been escorted out of the back door of the nightclub at 2.30 a.m. by a bouncer and told to get a taxi. Yorkshire Evening Post said, ‘The is strong evidence he may have gone over or through a horizontal metal pole fence which runs across the bottom of the road in front of Riverside Court apartments.’
He had last been seen leaving the Mission Nightclub off Lower Briggate Street at 3a.m. and entering the steep paved cul-de-sac leading to Riverside Court and the river. South on Briggate, he must have turned left into Call Lane, then turned right into Riverside court. His body was found a week later after police searched the river. The Inquest said he had been seen on CCTV in the Riverside Court ‘area.’ Police said it was ‘not suspicious. ‘He was not captured on CCTV entering the water however.
West Yorkshire Police issued the following appear; ‘Did you see Matthew on Thursday or Friday, 25th and 26th February? Were you with him or in the Mission Nightclub that night of Thursday 25th? Did you take any photos that night in the club? Did you see him after he left the Nightclub? Did you speak to him in the days before he went missing?”
Matthew had been in the club that night but it later transpired that he was escorted out of the back door of the nightclub and told to get a taxi by a bouncer who judged that he was too drunk to remain in the club. On a fundraising page set up to help looking for the missing man, Matt, was described as having a slim build, 6 feet in height and with blonde hair. He wore black glasses and was a student at the university there, studying for a degree in Geography. His picture shows him to be a gentle-looking young man.
His disappearance was described as “completely out of character,” and he was said by his friends to always take the same route home when he walked back to his dorms at the Clarence Dock Halls of Residence after a night out. Why was he down a cul-de-sac by the river?
Before he went missing, he’d been seen by the police, who were out patrolling the area. He was deemed by them not to have been overly intoxicated, and capable of getting home without any difficulty. He was found 1 week later in the same part of the river. The river had been searched for a week. His body had no signs of trauma. It was ruled an accident.
Trainee student Teacher Nathan Tomlinson, student, slim, blonde, went missing in Manchester, on December, 17th, 2010. His official date of death is the day in which he was found; 10th February 2011, and it has never been ascertained when exactly he did die. He had been missing for 8 weeks. His Mother believes his friends may be lying.
It’s believed that a girl slapped his face in the Bar he was last seen in. The girl has never been identified, nor the reason why this could have happened, and there is nothing to suggest that anything in Nathan’s nature would have led him to have caused that to happen. For that reason, perhaps it is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
He was last seen on CCTV leaving a Bar in the City Centre. It was snowing and blanket of snow lay on the ground. He can be seen on CCTV inside the Bar as leaves. Police said it was him in CCTV footage walking home through the City– His Mother says that was not him. CCTV near where he was found was not viewed.
He was found dead in the water near Pint Pot Pub on Adelphi Street, near Adelphi Bridge, in Salford, a mile or so North- West of Manchester. He lived South-East of Manchester. He had no reason to have headed in that direction, particularly on a freezing night with snow on the ground.
There was no water in his lungs. His cause of death was “Undetermined.” His post-mortem concluded that he had died on the night he had disappeared. However, his death was recorded as an ‘Open Verdict,’ with the pathologist unable to say whether he had died before, or after he entered the water.
The Manchester Pusher
David Plunkett, just like the majority of the U.S. victims, died in inexplicable circumstances. In February 2012, David’s friend called David’s parents to explain that he had lost David and wanted to know if they had heard from him. His friend said that David had been ‘kicked out’ of the event for allegedly being intoxicated.
David and his friend had been attending a music event at the racetracks in the city centre. His mother reassured his friend that she would call David herself and find out where he was. When her son answered her call, at first, she heard only silence, and what sounded like him walking somewhere very quiet. Then, after a few minutes, while the call was still connected, he suddenly began to howl. His mother described it as a horrific sound, “unearthly” and utterly chilling.
“I couldn’t get through to him. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t tell me where he was. A good 7-8 minutes into the call there was suddenly this ghastly screaming. I started crying.”
Unable to get him to listen to her, she passed the phone to her husband while she dialed the police on their landline phone. His father too could not get him to listen to him, to tell him what was going on or where he was. “I raised my voice to get him to snap out of it but I couldn’t get through to him. He couldn’t talk. We couldn’t help him. Then there was total silence.”
Neither could the police; because David was unable to stop screaming. His body was found three weeks later in the city canal. His mother has later said that she can only understand that he must have seen something so terrifying.
The distraught parents of the young man went to the Newspapers to speak out about their distress, caused by having to endure listening to their son screaming down the phone to them in the last moments of his life. The police later traced his phone to a location two miles outside of the city; in an area David had no reason to be heading to and wouldn’t even have been familiar with. His phone was found as though ‘placed’ on the path beside the canal. His glasses too were found there beside the phone.
A former murder detective from Scotland Yard was hired for the TV documentary makers to investigate his and two other young men found drowned. What the detective couldn’t understand was why David would have gone to that location, voluntarily. The route to the canal where he was said to have entered the water was down a small dark side road that appeared to be a dead-end.
The detective also could not fathom how the coroner and police had established that he must have fallen into the water accidently, when in order to do that, he would have had to scale a high fence. They said that he had slipped down the embankment and into the water and that was why he had screamed.
If he had slipped and fallen in, disregarding for a moment that he would have had to get back up after falling down and then climb over a high fence, it’s entirely he could have screamed out in surprise and shock; but he wouldn’t have howled continually for the length of several minutes.
His mother, a former Head Teacher, spoke out, “It is not a case of ‘young man drinks too much, falls in canal.’ Someone is responsible for his death and the version of events that have been given are simply not adding up, and the case leaves many more questions than answers. He could have been attacked, he could have had his drink spiked; anything..”
The Smiley Face Murder Theory & The Manchester Pusher