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'I'm not a crazy mum ... I'm a mum who's looking for answers' coroner rules on mystery of michael's death.

Byline: RACHEL SMITH and LUKE TRAYNOR ECHO Reporters

A MUM issued a heartfelt plea for answers over the death of her teenage son, whose body was found floating in a river.

Michael Brooks, 19, was missing for two weeks after vanishing during a late-night trip to the park to watch the stars while high on drugs, an inquest heard.

But there are conflicting accounts of how the Huyton teen died.

One woman claims two men held Michael at knifepoint and threw him in the river over an outstanding drugs debt.

Other witnesses, who were drinking whisky and taking drugs and described sitting on the opposite River Ribble bank, in Avenham Park, in Penwortham, Lancs, believed they heard voices and splashing on the night he disappeared.

Kelly McWilliams and Thomas Willis, named at Michael's inquest in Preston on Wednesday, told the court how they shone their torches on their phones and saw what they thought was a silhouette, close to the Old Tram Bridge, where it is alleged the 19-year-old fell off.

The shadow was of someone standing waist deep in water, they said, but when they went to the bridge they could not see anyone there.

Kelly, at the scene at 1.30am on February 6, 2018, told police she didn't understand how someone could "vanish into thin air", but thought her judgement was possibly clouded by drugs.

Complicating the picture, seven months after the tragedy, a young woman contacted police, telling them she'd been informed Michael, who grew up in Merseyside and moved to Preston to go to college in his teens, had been thrown from the Tram Bridge.

She said a friend had told her a young man she knew - known to the inquest only as X - was a murderer and had killed Michael Brooks.

The woman gave an account of two men, X and Y, meeting up with Michael on the bridge.

Michael was alleged to owe money to "The Avenham Boys" and was given five minutes to repay it.

She said X had threatened Y with a knife, telling him he had to push Michael off the Tram Bridge or he would be stabbed himself.

A few days after hearing the story, the young woman said she went to see Y and asked him about him killing Michael.

She said Y told her: "Yeah, I did, but it's nowt to do with you."

But, when police investigated, they found records from his Lancashire care home which stated he'd been at the home on the night Michael disappeared.

When detectives approached the woman's friend - who had told her the story - she denied the story.

At the inquest, Connor Rishton told the court on January 13, 2018, Michael and close friend Kurt Gregson met up with two other men - Connor and Victor Sumner.

The group spent the evening taking 2CB - a "legal high" with similar effects to LSD, at an address in Preston, where Michael and Kurt lived.

Connor told the inquest: "Michael didn't like being inside. He felt enclosed, trapped. He was trying to leave."

Connor told the inquest he followed Michael out of the building and they set off to walk to Avenham Park, once being caught on CCTV during the journey.

Connor said: "He kept running ahead.

Every time I caught up with him, he'd run off again."

They passed the Japanese Gardens and a gazebo, but Michael stopped when he came to a hedge, saying he couldn't get past.

Connor said: "I went around and told him to follow me, but by the time I got to the gazebo he'd gone. I haven't seen him since."

Connor told the court he looked for Michael in the park but could not find him as it was dark and he was hearing strange noises.

Thinking he had gone back to the flat, Connor set off home and left the park.

After coroner James Newman said he was unable to determine how the Knowsley man died, his family urged anyone with information to help.

Aunt Cheryl Stewart, said: "We don't want rumours or further upset or confusion, but we would appeal for people to think back to that day, and anything that sticks out - please, go to the police."

Drones and divers were deployed in the hunt for Michael, while friends and family scoured the park. He was eventually found after drifting downstream.

A post mortem into his death revealed he'd drowned, but found no other signs of any injury.

Recording an open verdict, Mr Newman said: "With all the best will in the world, I don't think we are ever going to get all the answers."

In a statement, Michael's mum Joanne said: "I know nothing that happens today (at the inquest) will change the outcome.

"I'm not a crazy mum looking for justice. I am a heartbroken mum looking for answers."

At the time of his death, touching messages were paid to the "beautiful", "caring" and "quirky" teenager.

His aunt said: "He was such a caring and kind kid, everyone who met him loved him.

"He loved exploring and would go camping in the woods and climbing trees and do a lot of urban exploring.

"His mum and him were as thick as thieves - she was his absolute world.

"For a long time it was only him and her and when his siblings came along they were such a lovely family unit."

With all the best will in the world, I don't think we are ever going to get all the answers. Coroner James Newman
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Title Annotation:News; Teasers
Author:RACHEL SMITH and LUKE TRAYNOR ECHO Reporters
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2020
Words:920
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