Police searching former home of mum-of-three who disappeared 52 years ago

Police are searching the former home of a woman who vanished more than 50 years ago, amid hopes of a breakthrough.

Specialist officers cordoned off the terraced house in Crumpsall, Manchester, as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Isabella Skelton, nee McDowall.

Isabella – known as Izzy – left the family home on June 6, 1969, and never returned.

She was 35-years-old at the time of her disappearance, meaning she would now be 87.

Her daughter, Linda Chapman, has never given up hope that she will find her mum.

Last summer detectives released a computer generated image to show what Isabella might look like today.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have confirmed that specialist officers are working at the address where Isabella was last known to have lived before she went missing in order to “exhaust every potential line of enquiry”.

The current occupants of the address have no link to Isabella or her family and have been temporarily relocated, the force said.

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A police van and a silver Transit van was seen parked outside the property on Lidiard Street.

In a statement GMP said: “As part of an investigation by GMP’s City of Manchester North CID into the disappearance of Isabella Skelton, who was last seen over 50 years ago, specialist officers are working at an address in #Crumpsall as part of their enquiries.

“This address, on Lidiard Street, is where Isabella is last known to have lived before she went missing in June 1969 and investigators continue to exhaust every potential line of enquiry.

“An age progression image (pictured) of what Isabella may look like now was released in September 2020 and the work in Crumpsall is the latest stage of the investigation.

“Officers are maintaining an open mind as they do all they can to find out what has happened to Isabella and the current occupants of the address, who have no link to Isabella or her family, have been temporarily relocated with support from local partners.”

Detective Inspector Claire Moss, who is leading the search for Isabella, said: “Isabella’s family continue to seek answers to her disappearance over 50 years ago and I want to reassure the local community that our work in the next weeks is purely to try and aid our investigation.”

Detective Sergeant Jamie Heaton, who has helped plan the search, added: “We have been working with local partner agencies to ensure that there is minimal disruption for residents in the area, and I encourage anyone with any concerns in the coming days to speak to our uniformed officers on the ground that will be on hand to provide information.

“When people are reported missing to the police, no matter the passage of time, it is crucial that we do everything we can to find them.

“Should there be a need to update residents further during this period, we will make sure that they are informed where necessary.

“I’d like to thank local residents for their co-operation and remind them to call us with any concerns on 0161 856 4304.”

Born in Glasgow on January 21, 1934, Isabella married Lewis Skelton in July 1952.

The couple had three children – Linda, Richard and Stephen.

They moved to Greater Manchester in the early 1960s, first living in Salford then moving to Crumpsall.

It is believed she attended school in Anderson Cross, Scotland, and at the time had a good friend called Anna Owen.

She did some work in a florist and also worked for the James Howden engineering company, in Glasgow.

Isabella worked at the courier company Atlas Express, based in Salford and at Gallagher Cigarettes and Ball Bearings Services – the latter at the time of her disappearance.

Speaking when the age progression image of her mum was released last year, Linda said: “I just want to know, one way or another.

“I don’t feel like I can sit on anything, any piece of information. It is keeping me going really.

“The records only go back to a certain date. The police can’t find any hospital records for her and there’s no record of her claiming a state pension or anything. There must be a reason she’s not doing that.

“I’m piecing a lot of things together now.”

Since Isabella’s disappearance, her children have had children and grandchildren of their own.

Now a grandmother herself, Linda – who lives in Whitefield – says the hardest part about having a missing mother is knowing that she has missed so many significant milestones.

At the very least, she wants to know that she is alive and well.

“She was lovely,” Linda told the Manchester Evening News during an interview at Christmas last year.

“When she went it was awful. Really terrible. I think of her every day. And every time June 6 comes around I know.

“I don’t need to write it down – I know how I feel. I have never stopped thinking about her.

“She has missed so much – my wedding, all those Christmases, my daughter’s wedding, the grandchildren. I have missed her.

“She’s really missed by her family. And I don’t blame her. People say ‘how can she walk out on three children?’ but we don’t know what was going on.

“I just hope she is well and she’s found happiness. I would be happy for her if she’s had a happy life.”

Isabella disappeared just a few days before Linda’s 15th birthday, telling her teenage daughter she was going to work away.

“I just thought it was so strange,” she says.

It wasn’t until Linda married Keith in the early 1970s that her search for her mum began in earnest.

She placed an advert on the Scottish Herald asking for information about her whereabouts.

Since then, she and her family have explored every possible avenue.

Linda has auditioned for the ITV show Long Lost Family, worked with the Salvation Army and the charity Missing People in a bid to find her mum.

She even sought the help of the Preston branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Linda hoped that Mormons from the church could use a huge family history library and archive – known as The Vault – stored at their base in Salt Lake City, Utah, to locate her mum.

She has given her DNA to police and even travelled back to her mum’s former addresses to speak to neighbours.

Despite these efforts, the family have never managed to trace Isabella.

Linda describes Isabella as petite, neat and proudly presented, with curly hair.

When she went missing the children moved up to Scotland to live with family there.

Two of Isabella’s siblings brothers, Alexander and George, are still alive.

Linda recently met up with her uncle Alexander, who now lives in Belfast, for the first time in 55 years.

He had previously lived with Linda, her other brothers, mother and father but left in the 1960s and lost contact with the family.

Linda previously told the M.E.N: “If she’d dead, she’s dead and I can grieve, but it’s the not knowing that’s difficult.

“Nobody has found a death certificate. We could just be grasping at straws but that tells me she might still be alive.

“Even if she had another family – she could have remarried – I’m not there to burst her bubble.

“We have tried every avenue and just hit a brick wall. You sometimes think ‘should I leave it?’”

“If she doesn’t want to contact me I can live with that. I just want to know that she’s safe.

“I want her to have had a happy life. I have missed her. She’s been missed by her whole family.”