Michael Sutherland's legacy is to give hope to families seeking closure, says sister
"MICHAEL'S legacy is to give hope to families who fear they will never find closure after their loved one goes missing."
Those were the words of Ann Stockton, the sister of Michael Sutherland whose body has finally been identified – 23 years after he took his life on Cleethorpes beach in September 1989.
As reported, Mr Sutherland's body was washed up on Weybourne beach, in Norfolk, but he was never identified – despite a six-month investigation there.
Villagers in Weybourne held a funeral service for the unknown man in April 1990 and he was buried in an unmarked grave.
It wasn't until last year when – thanks to advances in forensic science – police exhumed the body and matched DNA to that of a member of Mr Sutherland's family, bringing an end to the mystery.
His sister, Ann, 67, from Cleethorpes, said: "I just broke down in tears when I found out they'd finally found him.
"It was such a sense of relief that it was all over, but at the same time we started grieving all over again."
Born at Nunsthorpe Maternity Home, Mr Sutherland attended Nunsthorpe Junior and Chelmsford Secondary schools before working at Osmond Aerosols and the Kingsway Hotel, where he was a bellboy.
He was living on the Yarborough estate and studying maths and English at Grimsby College when he went missing, aged 34.
Mrs Stockton added: "He was such a polite and well-presented young man with impeccable manners. He was generous, kind, gentle, understanding and a very good brother.
"He suffered from learning difficulties which made him anxious but all he really wanted in life was to find a girl, settle down and get married. He would have been a wonderful husband."
Mrs Stockton recently made the 118-mile journey to Norfolk with other family members for a memorial service, and said: "I wanted to thank the people of Weybourne for the way they treated Michael.
"I read a eulogy about his life and what he was like.
"I also talked about how amazing DNA is these days and how anybody who has lost a loved one should not give up hope that they too will find closure.
"It took 23 years for us, but science is so advanced now that it could take 23 weeks for somebody else."
An inquest into the cause of Michael's death will be held in Norfolk at a date to be confirmed.
Keep reading your Grimsby Telegraph for details of a memorial service to be held for Mr Sutherland at St Andrew's Church, Grimsby, in the new year.