Police today revealed that human remains found on a Jaguar Land Rover site are not thought to be those of the ‘Milk Carton Kids’ who vanished 24 years ago.
Patrick Warren, 11, and David Spencer, 13, disappeared on Boxing Day in 1996 after playing together near their home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull.
Photographs were placed on the back of milk cartons by the National Missing Persons helpline, leading them to be called the ‘Milk Carton Kids’.
Remains were found two weeks ago three miles away by builders working on a new development at the Jaguar Land Rover plant near Birmingham International Airport.
The find two weeks ago raised the hopes of their families that there might be an answer to what happened to Patrick and David.
David’s mother Christine Harvey said she was hoping for closure and for the chance to bury her son and his friend after nearly quarter of a century.
Police who investigated the remains today said that they think they pre-date Patrick and David going missing. It is thought the bones could belong to younger children.
David Spencer (left) and Patrick Warren (right) who both went missing on boxing day 1996
West Midlands Police searched a construction site after human remains were found during excavations for the new Logistics Operations Centre for Jaguar Land Rover
A shopper at Iceland supermarket in Perry Barr, Birmingham, collects a 4 pint milk carton which displays a picture of missing children, in 1997
A map shows where the boys went missing from their homes in Chelmsley Wood compared to the site where bones were discovered, which is close to a field searched by police in 2006
They are not linking them to any other criminal investigation.
A spokesman for West Midlands Police told MailOnline: ‘Bones on land off Damson Parkway, Solihull, found on Wednesday 4 November, are not thought to be those of David Spencer and Patrick Warren, who went missing on Boxing Day 1996.
‘Various scientific tests are required to establish exactly how long the remains have been there which will take several weeks.
‘The bones are not believed to be those of boys of David and Patrick’s age, and we are not currently linking the find to any other existing criminal investigation.
‘We suspect that the bones may pre-date the disappearance of the boys.
The Jaguar Land Rover plant in Birmingham, is just three miles from Chelmsley Wood where Patrick Warren, 11, (right) and his 13-year-old friend David Spencer disappeared in 1996
A blue West Midlands police tent was put up at the site after workers made the grim find
The boys became known as the ‘milk carton kids’ after they were the first children to have their photographs appear on milk cartons in a scheme run by the National Missing Persons Helpline
‘Given the location of the find, we have kept the families of David and Patrick informed, but have told them we are not linking it with their children.’
The update in the case comes as the families of both boys had begun to prepare themselves that the bones were of those of Patrick and David, with Christine Harvey, David’s mother, even starting to think about her son’s funeral.
Patrick’s mother Bridget Warren passed away from cancer five years ago, without ever finding out what happened to her youngest son.
The Mail reported that initial images of the bones which were recovered from the site suggest that they come from two young boys.
Timeline on the disappearance of the ‘Milk Carton Kids’ (1997-2020)
The news coverage at the time shows how the boys’ families from Chelmsley Wood – a sprawling, working class estate on the edge of Birmingham – appealed for information
1996 – Patrick Warren, 11, and David Spencer, 13, disappeared on Boxing Day after playing together near their home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull
Police initially believed they were two streetwise children who had run away from home.
1997 – Four months after their last sighting, the boys became the first children to appear on four-pint milk cartons in 770 Iceland stores, as part of a campaign by the National Missing Persons Helpline.
The initiative was copied from the US where it had been running since 1979 when six-year-old Etan Patz had gone missing in New York.
The charity hoped it would provide vital leads on the whereabouts of Patrick and David. But after four weeks the families were still in the dark as to where they had gone.
The boys were last seen just after midnight on December 27, 1997, at a Shell petrol station where the attendant gave the pair a packet of biscuits before they walked off
2006 – Ten years after their disappearance, the case was treated as a murder investigation, despite the absence of bodies.
A full forensic investigation was conducted of the boys’ houses, which revealed nothing untoward and checks were made of the sex offenders register – which did not exist when the pair went missing – to find out if any known paedophiles were living in the vicinity at around that time.
Police discovered that paedophile and convicted child killer Brian Field was living only a few miles away from Patrick and David in Solihull when they went missing.
In 1999, three years after the boys went missing, Field, a former farm labourer, was arrested for drink-driving in Chelmsley Wood.
A DNA sample taken from him matched him to the 1968 rape and murder of schoolboy Roy Tutill in Surrey.
A computer generated image shows how David (left) and Patrick (right) would have looked nas older teenagers several years after they had disappeared
When Patrick and David’s disappearance was reviewed in 2006, Field was named as a suspect.
He was questioned by detectives and officers also dug up land he used as a dumping ground at Old Damson Lane in Solihull.
But without evidence, in the face of his denial of any knowledge of the boys, they were unable to progress the case further.
2020 – Police found human bones at a building site just three miles from the spot where the boys vanished.
They dashed hopes by revealing that the remains pre-dated 1996.