Coming home at last, the young man killed by a train 23 years ago

Derek Burns was reported missing in 1989
Derek Burns was reported missing in 1989
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A MAN who was killed by a train in London 23 years ago has finally been identified as a missing 20-year-old from Scotland.

• Lothians man Derek Burns had been reported missing

• DNA technology used which was not available in 1989

Derek Burns, from West Lothian, disappeared in 1989 after leaving his family home in West Calder.

A day later, he died after he was hit by a train in West Hampstead. But because he was so far from home and carrying no papers, he was not identified.

Now, following a renewed police investigation to trace those who have died on the

nation’s railways, advances in DNA testing have led to Mr Burns finally being traced.

His father, Derek senior, mother Diane and older brother Gordon will now be able to bring him home and lay his body to rest.

The dead man’s father, who walked hundreds of miles to raise awareness for the charity Missing Persons, said: “It’s

hard to put a name to the feeling, but now everybody knows, it is a relief.

“We know where he is and what happened and we can bring him home.”

A missing persons report was filed to Lothian and Borders Police on 9 March after Mr Burns left home. It emerged that he had gone to London to visit his girlfriend – who lived in West Hampstead – but had discovered she was ending the relationship.

Mr Burns was struck and killed by a St Albans to Brighton train on Friday, 10 March, 1989.

He had been a cheerful teenager, who was known as “Jolly Boy”, but he went through a troubled patch after his brother joined the army. On a stormy day in March, he left on a whim without taking his driving licence, passport or spare clothes.

The lack of identification was one reason nobody connected the story of the young man missing in Scotland with the victim struck by a train in London the following day.

An inquest was held at St Pancras Coroners Court, where an open verdict was recorded and the unidentified body was interred in a grave in East Finchley.

Meanwhile, his family never gave up hope that he might be alive. His father said: “Right to the end, you still hope. I used to do walks for Missing Persons and you would hear stories of people walking in after 20 years. But as the years pass by, you do start thinking something more serious has happened.”

The Burns family were contacted by police in March and told advanced DNA testing into historic missing persons investigations had led to suspicions that the body found in north London 23 years ago might be their son. They were given confirmation last week.

Now the family plans to fly the body back to Edinburgh and to hold the funeral service denied all those years ago. His father said: “We are bringing the remains back to Scotland and there will be a funeral at Liberton Crematorium. We are bringing him home.”

Mr Burns said he wanted to thank British Transport Police and their colleagues in West Lothian, saying: “They could not have been more helpful.”

The investigation formed part of Operation Santana, a joint operation between BTP and the UK Missing Persons Bureau to establish the identity of unknown people who have died on the rail network.