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‘Look to the crows’: Eerily accurate ‘psychic’ helped family of missing man find closure

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It was the missing person case solved by a reluctant clairvoyant that was proof truth really is stranger than fiction.

The plot twist in the search for Forfar pensioner David Murray in February 2003 wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood movie.

The 67-year-old dementia sufferer went missing from sheltered housing at Kirkriggs Court, which sparked a major land, sea and air search effort to find him.

Police also set up a reconstruction in a bid to secure vital leads in the hunt.

Police put up missing person posters across Forfar following the disappearance of Mr Murray.
Police put up missing person posters across Forfar following the disappearance of Mr Murray.

The trail had gone cold after day six and police made the decision to halt all physical searching and continue with an inquiry team.

Hope was fading fast following a series of dead ends.

But then the investigation took an unusual turn.

A man, who described himself as a “holistic healer”, entered the station.

He provided information about the missing man.

Here was information he had no idea how or why he had gained and was so bizarre, even to him, that he almost felt embarrassed going to the police.

Gordon Milne, then a police search adviser and section sergeant with Tayside Police, broke it down further.

Gordon Milne at Forfar Police Station during the investigation.
Gordon Milne at Forfar Police Station during the investigation.

“He went on to say that, although he had never experienced any psychic feelings before, since our missing person became missing, he had been receiving strange thoughts, which he now realised was information as to the whereabouts of our man,” he said.

“A brief statement was duly noted by a uniformed officer and he was thanked for his time before being shown the door.

“Two days later, he was back, with more information and a look on his face that would convince the most hardened of detectives.”

The healer provided police with hand-written notes compiled from his thoughts, which were now “coming thick and fast”.

Uniformed officers noted his comments and even took him out for a drive around various places in the town.

The healer felt sure that two places within a mile of Mr Murray’s flat were relevant, and it transpired that one of the places was a local beauty spot and the other was very close to a possible sighting of the missing man.

Various places were subsequently searched by officers, including Forfar Loch.

Once again police investigators drew a blank.

Police conduct a sweep of Forfar Loch following the disappearance of Mr Murray.
Police conduct a sweep of Forfar Loch following the disappearance of Mr Murray.

“Still nothing,” recalled Mr Milne.

“No missing person, no body, nothing concrete to go on.

“Feeling embarrassed by the whole affair, the holistic healer thanked officers for their time, apologised profusely and left.

“Two days later, he’s back. This time, more hand-written notes, containing various pieces of information, which start to become alarmingly close to the bone.”

Childhood haunts

The information comprised key snippets of information.

The missing person is dead; the Gaelic words “Guille Mhairi” are significant to the place where the body will be found; running water; bridge; look to the crows – they will help you find him; blue jumper; childhood memories; railway line not in use; no jacket; trees are significant; soft-shoes, black brogue type; patterned jumper or shirt.

“Although a fair bit of information, he could not specifically say where or indeed what area the missing person would be found,” said Mr Milne.

“He was adamant that the key to finding him lay with the missing person’s childhood haunts.”

A full land, sea and air operation was launched following Mr Murray's disappearance.
A full land, sea and air operation was launched following Mr Murray’s disappearance.

That’s when things took an unexpected twist.

A young officer who spoke to the healer discussed the details with her parents over dinner one night and her step-dad was struck by the mention of Guille Mhairi, which, roughly translated, means Mary’s Gulley or hole.

He was a retired police officer and a keen fisherman.

He produced a map of the River South Esk, with a clearly marked and well-known salmon pool, which was known locally as Mary’s Haugh.

“Things are beginning to take shape,” said Mr Milne.

“Having been off for a few days, I return to work and am brought up to speed with the development.

The moral of my story is this: just because we can’t/don’t understand the whole psychic angle, don’t be surprised when it turns up trumps.”

Gordon Milne

“Most people I speak to are interested in the story, but shy away from actually agreeing that we could be on to something here.

“I’m certainly interested and, along with another non-believer, take a walk along the riverbanks surrounding Mary’s Haugh. Nothing.

“I then speak to the missing person’s ex-wife that evening and she tells me that the area around Mary’s Haugh is well known to the missing person.

“He spent time on the South Esk at that spot with his childhood friends, swimming and taking picnics on the banks.

“When they were first married, the couple would, on a nice Sunday, cycle out to the river (which is about 10 miles from the town) and walk along the banks of Mary’s Haugh.”

There was a multi-agency response set up at Forfar Police Station in the search for Mr Murray.
There was a multi-agency response set up at Forfar Police Station in the search for Mr Murray.

Despite this new development, it was considered too much of a “hunch” to commit more resources to a search of this area.

However, a group of canoeists travelling down the South Esk came across the body seven weeks to the day since the 67-year-old had last been seen.

He was found in a 30-metre-wide stretch between Finavon and Tannadice.

There were no suspicious circumstances.

He was discovered approximately one mile downstream of Mary’s Haugh.

The healer’s vision of a railway bridge and trees transpired to be accurate.

Around 15 metres downstream of the body stood the remains of an old railway bridge, which was lined by trees.

Police at the scene after the body was recovered from the water.
Police at the scene after the body was recovered from the water.

“The body is wearing a blue jumper (blue jumper), which we never knew he even possessed and was never known to wear,” recalled Mr Milne.

“His sports jacket is missing (no jacket), which we knew he was wearing when last seen walking on the day of his disappearance.

“I was on duty that afternoon and one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.

“I spent the first 15 minutes scanning the area for a crow or any other kind of bird for that matter. Negative – not one in sight. Had to be too good to be true.

“Anyway, the missing person was still wearing his black brogues (“soft shoes-black brogue type”) and a white shirt with vertical stripes (“patterned shirt”).

“It was only brought to my attention two days later that one of the four canoeists that found the body was – wait for it – Mr Brian Crowe (look to the crows – they will help you find him).

“Now, I am not a believer in the true sense of the words, but, I have never experienced anything like this before and for the psychic to get virtually 12 things right is ample evidence for me to realise that something is going on here which I don’t understand but have to admit is striking.

“Taking a sceptical stance, then, yes, he may have picked up some of his clues from press reports and made educated guesses at others.

“But there is no way he could have guessed at Guille Mhairi, the blue jumper, the crows angle or even the railway line.

“I am convinced that something is going on here which I don’t understand and can’t explain.

“The moral of my story is this: just because we can’t/don’t understand the whole psychic angle, don’t be surprised when it turns up trumps.”

David Murray
There was closure for the family when the body of David Murray was eventually discovered.

It was the sad conclusion Mr Murray’s family had feared and hoped against but they knew in their hearts that the knock on the door that evening meant only one thing.

“I felt even before the policeman spoke that it was the moment of truth,” Mr Murray’s brother, Thomas, said.

“We never gave up hope and thought there was always the chance that David might be found safe and well.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for what they did to try to find David.

“Everything they could have done was done and it was all for David.”

  • The Gordon Milne interview featured in February’s edition of 1919 magazine.

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