MURDER detectives are investigating fresh leads after their search for human remains at a former Hampshire pub proved fruitless.
Officers have received a “handful” of calls they plan to follow up on as they probe the suspected killing 15 years ago of Kevin John Palmer.
Detectives complete with sniffer dog teams and forensic experts spent two-days examining the Gordon Arms in Fareham scouring the earth for evidence that the 37-year-old timeshare salesman’s body had been dumped there.
But at lunchtime yesterday, they called a halt to the search after it came to nothing admitting defeat in that line of enquiry.
Mr Palmer’s family, who have endured years of uncertainty since the disappearance in 1999, have since been informed and are still no closer to finding out what happened to their loved one.
Detectives are now focusing on information that was generated as a result of their high profile activity including a number of calls made to them over the last 48 hours.
As previously reported, following a review of the case officers took the decision to dig up the garden of the former pub on Gordon Road after intelligence suggested the remains of Mr Palmer could be there.
But Det Supt Paul Barton said: “We have found nothing of significant interest I am satisfied that we have carried out a thorough search of the grounds so that line of enquiry is now closed.
“We continue to look at the evidence we have so far. We still appeal for witnesses to come forward anyone with any information in relation to the disappearance of Mr palmer should contact the police,.
“We would also like to thank the residents of Gordon road for their patience as we have caused a lot of disruption down here of over the past couple of days.”
Despite the disappointment, detectives say coverage of the search has sparked fresh lines of enquiry which will now be followed up.
As reported, Mr Palmer went missing on March 12, 1999 having arrived in the UK that afternoon from Malaga where he was living with his wife and child.
Nicknamed Jon Bon Jovi because he had hair similar to the rock star, Mr Palmer was accompanied by his friend Juan Campano Arribas and was met by John Howett on arrival at Gatwick Airport.
The trio spent the evening in the Sir Joseph Paxton pub in Hunts Pond Road, Locks Heath, and the Abshot Country Club in Titchfield Common before they caught a taxi that drove them towards Bishop’s Waltham during the early hours.
But the journey was interrupted when the car pulled over in Botley Road, Curdridge, all three got out and punches were thrown.
Only two men are said to have got back in – Howett and Mr Arribas – and they continued their journey to Hoe Road in Bishop’s Waltham where convicted drug smuggler Howett lived at that time.
Mr Palmer was left lying on the ground in Bridge Farm Industrial Estate, an inquest into his death later heard, until Howett and Arribas, with the help of friend Robin Briggs, went back to collect him.
But it wasn’t until October 2003 that Hampshire police revealed they thought he had been murdered.
An investigation got under way that saw Howett’s then-home sealed off as police spent a week searching for clues.
Howett, then aged 52, was arrested and quizzed on suspicion of the killing.
He was released without charge the following year – but continued to serve a 12-year prison term in after being convicted of drug smuggling.
An inquest was held, despite a body never being recovered, in which coroner Grahame Short recorded an open verdict because he said there was not enough evidence to suggest unlawful killing.
But he did say he was convinced witnesses had not told the truth to police in their statements because they didn’t want to take the blame for the death of the dad-of-one.
Anyone with fresh information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.