A BODY discovered during a search for a pensioner has been revealed as a man who had been missing for more than 15 years.
James Adams disappeared from his home in Livingston, West Lothian, in 1996 and was never traced.
But it emerged today that his body had lain undisturbed for years just a 30-minute walk from his home in the new town’s Brisbane Street.
The secluded, riverbank spot where his skeleton was discovered is barely half a mile from a busy dual carriageway and a few hundred metres from family homes.
The 58-year-old was known to have serious health problems when he went missing and it is thought he died of natural causes.
His remains were only discovered, in April 2010, as a result of an intensive search for missing 88-year-old Mary Fearns, who disappeared in 2008 and has still not been traced.
Mr Adams was reported missing from his home on September 2, 1996 when his home help discovered the property empty and his two dogs frantically barking. There was no sign of a disturbance.
He had last been seen on August 12 as he walked the pets on Livingston’s Pentland Walk.
It is understood that Mr Adams, who was originally from Livingston, had lost touch with his family after moving to London in the early 1970s.
After living in London for around 25 years, he moved back to Livingston about a year before he disappeared.
At the time he went missing, his niece, Carol Worrall, raised concerns that the heavy drinker, who also suffered from a heart condition, had not taken his medication with him.
She said at the time: “He went to London and only came back to Livingston a year ago before vanishing again.
“He didn’t have any friends here and missed London, so at first I thought he might have gone back but none of his friends have seen hide nor hair of him.”
The 2010 hunt for Mrs Fearns led to the discovery of Mr Adams’ skeleton on the bank of the River Almond, which runs through the centre of the town. The spot is just a mile and a half from his home.
Forensic examination of the remains quickly established they were those of a man.
Officers carried out local enquiries and worked with the National Missing Persons Bureau to try to identify the body.
A police spokesman said today: “There are no suspicious circumstances and a report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”
Asked today (Thurs) how Mr Adams could have lain undiscovered for so long, a police spokeswoman said: Detective Chief Inspector Phil Gachagan of Livingston police explained how it was possible Mr Adams had lain undiscovered for so long.
He said: “Livingston is a new town and is built in the countryside. There’s lots of areas of open land so there are lots of areas where people walk but it [the site where Mr Adams was found] is off the beaten track. There’s no means of access, there’s no footpath.
“I could imagine how he could end up there if he was disorientated and if he was trying to get from one part to another. He could have fallen or he could have taken ill and collapsed.”
A police spokeswoman added: “It was not a built-up area where they found him, it’s quite remote. They found him down an embankment, it’s a steep incline and covered in thick foliage.”
Mr Adams has been missing for so long that none of his neighbours were able to recall him today, despite many living in the same street for several decades.
One resident, Heather Simpson, 81, added: “I’ve been here since 1967 and I’ve never known anyone of that name in the street.
“It’s a long time [to be missing] and it’s sad but I can’t place him at all. It’s such a long time, it just don’t understand it. It’s not nice.”
While Evelyn Mitchell, 65, added: “At the time they found the remains there was a lady who was missing. Then they said it was a man and we heard nothing more.
“I think it’s very strange but the bit where they found him is so well covered.”
Police are still looking to trace Mrs Ferns, who was last seen in June 2008.
At the time her disappearance was described as “out of character”.
Mrs Ferns disappeared on June 17, 2008 after going to buy tights from Almondvale Shopping Centre.
It is believed she got on a bus as family members identified her through CCTV images on Edinburgh’s Princes Street.
That was the last known sighting of the then 88-year-old.
In the weeks following Mrs Ferns’ disappearance, police had drafted in an underwater search unit from Central Scotland Police force to comb the river.
However the area where the skeletal remains were found was not included in the original search.
Due to the remoteness and difficulty in accessing the area, police initially treated the find as suspicious, but later said: “There is no obvious cause of death, and no apparent criminality.”
Soon after finding the remains police reported that initial forensic tests had indicated the bones had “distinctive male aspects” and said that clothing found with the remains suggested they could belong to an older man.