Human remains discovered on waste ground in a Fife industrial estate four months ago have been identified as a 61-year-old man from a nearby village.
Ean Coutts was a familiar figure in Kinglassie, who had not been reported missing, despite his sudden disappearance more than a year ago.
The remains found in Glenrothes last year were said to be significantly decomposed, suggesting they had lain there for some time.
Shocked villagers said Mr Coutts had vanished without warning and new tenants were eventually housed in his seemingly abandoned council flat.
The identification of the remains followed a major police inquiry.
A 30-year-old man from the Macedonia area of Glenrothes was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the death, which police are treating as “suspicious”. He was later released pending further inquiries.
Mr Coutts’ family have been informed and are being supported by specialist officers.
Officers visited his former home on Kinglassie’s Main Street on Tuesday afternoon.
It is understood the new tenants are not the focus of the investigation.
Police searched a number of addresses in the close-knit former mining community and in the Glenrothes area.
A public appeal for information followed, but police drew a blank until a facial reconstruction by forensic experts was released. It is understood this played a part in triggering this week’s events.
Officers finally confirmed the remains to be those of ex-Army cook Mr Coutts, who had lived at Main Street, Kinglassie, for the past 20 years.
He was well known locally, where villagers said he regularly enjoyed a drink.
Neighbours spoke of their shock and disbelief after police set up an investigation unit at his former home.
Kayti Dickinson, said: “He was well known and liked by everyone. It’s hard to believe the remains found last year are him.”
Neighbours thought he’d moved abroad
Another neighbour, said: “It’s awful news. He had lived there for years but then was suddenly not around. It was thought he had gone abroad on holiday and later to London.
“After a few months of him not being around, his flat was cleared and new tenants moved in.
“It’s terrible to think it’s ended up this way.”
She added: “Everybody seemed to know him and nobody ever had a bad word to say about him.
“He was always tending to his garden which was immaculate.
“He never failed to give you a smile whenever you saw him and always made sure he let on whenever he saw you.
“It’s such sad news to hear that the remains found in Glenrothes are him. It’s just so sad, especially as he was such a lovely person.”
Another Main Street resident said: “All we heard was he’d given up his house and moved on. Nobody ever suspected there was anything amiss.
“The house lay empty for a few months.
“Who would have thought it would happen in a wee parochial village like Kinglassie? It’s usually quite peaceful.
“When we heard a body had been found at Whitehill Industrial Estate nobody suspected it was Ean.”
‘Ean wouldn’t hurt a fly’
Another neighbour added: “I knew him for years and he wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“He was quiet and tended to keep himself to himself.
“He was really nice, really polite. It’s so sad what’s happened.
A former neighbour of Mr Coutts, who asked not to be named, said he had last seen him around two years ago, adding: “He was a nice person.
“When we moved in he offered us a shot of his lawnmower to cut our grass.
“I believe he was in the Army for a while years ago and that’s how he got the injury to his ankle.
“One day he disappeared and we never saw him again.
“A story went round that a member of his family had died and left him a lot of money.
“Just after that, within a week I’d say, he left and never came back.
“After a few months the council came and cleared the flat out, repainted it and let it to someone else.”
The flurry of police activity follows extensive ongoing inquiries which included the release of the facial reconstruction images of what the dead man was thought to have looked like, created by experts at Liverpool John Moore’s University.
It was also revealed the man had received medical treatment for a leg injury at some point, something those who knew Mr Coutts backed up on Wednesday.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Houliston, from Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team, said: “We received a significant number of responses following release of the facial reconstruction and I would like to thank all those who contacted us.
“This has allowed us to identify the man as Ean Coutts and my thoughts are with his family at this time.
“Ean had lived in Kinglassie for a number of years and was well known in the village.
“We are treating his death as suspicious and officers will be carrying out inquiries in the area as part of our ongoing investigation.
“I am appealing to anyone who knew Ean, who may have had any contact with him from around August 2019, or who has information that could assist with our investigation to contact us urgently.”
The confirmed identity ends any lingering hope that the remains could be that of either Kenneth Jones or Allan Bryant who have been missing from Glenrothes since 1998 and 2013 respectively.
September 26 2020
Police launch major investigation after unidentified human remains are discovered at Whitehill Industrial Estate at 5.20pm.
Surrounding streets are closed and industrial units cordoned off.
September 27 2020
A large police presence remains at the scene and families of local missing people are informed of the discovery.
They include the families of Glenrothes men Allan Bryant Jnr, who disappeared without trace in 2003, and Kenny Jones, who has not been seen since 1998.
October 10 2020
Families of Allan Bryant and Kenny Jones informed the remains are not those of their loved ones.
Police appeal to the public for information.
October 14 2020
Police say the remains may have lain for at least two years and reveal a number of details, including that the man had a surgical plate fitted in his left ankle and had lost a number of teeth.
They appeal to anyone who has used the industrial estate during the past two years to come forward.
November 25 2020
Officers release a facial reconstruction of how the man may have looked following work with forensics experts.
They ask for help from anyone who recognises him.
November 27 2020
The sister of missing Cumbernauld man Paul Booth contacts police to say the facial reconstruction resembles her brother.
Pauline Gibson says Mr Booth has been missing since October 2016.
January 13 2021
Police announce they have identified the remains as belonging to Kinglassie man Ean Coutts, 61.
His death is being treated as suspicious.