A private investigator hired to find missing former rugby league star Bryn Hargreaves today accused US police who failed to find his body for 14 months of ‘stonewalling’ his own search efforts.
Ex-St Helens player Bryn, 37, was found in late February in woods only yards from his apartment near Cheat Lake, West Virginia, and formally identified this week.
His remains were stumbled upon by hunters, yet the local Sheriff’s Department claimed that ‘extensive searches’ had been made of the same area when the ex-pat Briton went missing in January 2022.
As local people joined in criticism of the search effort on Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page, Bryn’s mother Maria Andrews claims that it wasn’t until she and another son David flew to West Virginia and pleaded with them that any police searches occurred at all.
She posted: ‘They didn’t carry out any searches till me and my son landed there from the UK, and then weeks later, when they finally agreed with us to do searches.’
The body of rugby league star Bryn Hargreaves was found more than a year after he vanished in the US
Bryn’s mother Maria Andrews claims that it wasn’t until she and another son David flew to West Virginia and pleaded with them that any police searches occurred at all
Ex-St Helens player Bryn, 37, was found in late February in woods only yards from his apartment near Cheat Lake, West Virginia, and formally identified this week
And Ken Cornell, a local private investigator who worked pro bono for Bryn’s family , said his repeated requests to the Sheriff’s Department for permission to organise his own searches – including the woodland where Bryn was subsequently found – were ‘stonewalled’ by lead Detective Sergeant Stephen Currie.
Mr Cornell, 57, told MailOnline in an exclusive interview: ‘I was not getting anywhere with detective Currie…every time I requested permission for a search I was getting stonewalled.’
The investigator with more than 20 years’ experience, whose firm spent more than 500 hours on the case, added: ‘If he had allowed me to deploy a search and rescue team I suggested from Tyler County, West Virginia, I believe with 90 per cent certainty that we would have found Bryn way before this.
Private investigator Ken Cornell, who was hired to find missing former rugby league star Bryn Hargreaves, has accused US police of ‘stonewalling’ his own search efforts
Bryn retired from rugby aged just 26 after becoming disillusioned with the game and then moved to the US to work in the oil and gas industry
Bryn vanished from his home in Whisper Creek, just outside Morgantown in West Virginia (pictured) where he had moved following retirement from rugby
‘Detective Currie is the most undiplomatic person I’ve ever had any contact with in my life.
‘If I’d been working in the area where I live, every officer that I know would have done their best to help me out. But he did not want me involved in this and did not want to have any contact from me.’
He said that Bryn’s mother Maria had been misled by police when she asked them why her son’s body had not been found in the first search.
Bryn Hargreaves played in the Super League for Wigan, St Helens and Bradford, which he is seen representing here
Ex-St Helens player Bryn, 37, was found in late February in woods only yards from his apartment near Cheat Lake, West Virginia
Bryn, from Wigan, made 175 appearances in the sport’s top flight, Super League, for Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Bradford Bulls
‘Bryn’s mother asked why wasn’t he found and Det. Currie said that maybe it was because of snow on the ground, but I have pictures from the day they searched and there was absolutely no snow on the ground.’
Mr Cornell showed MailOnline GPS tracks left by the dogs deployed in the police search on February 12 last year – more than a fortnight after Bryn went missing – and questioned whether the animals were nationally certified as cadaver dogs.
‘My later dealings with the same dogs on a search of Cheat Lake convinced me that the handlers and their dogs were not trained properly due to our conversations with experts in the search and rescue field.’
‘If the dogs or their handlers had been properly trained, there is no reason they wouldn’t have found Bryn as the temperatures were high enough that there would have been a scent, but they didn’t.
‘We believe that every K-9 cadaver dog in the state should be trained and certified through the same national agency so that we can assure the search teams that are deployed have the same level of knowledge and expertise.
‘But in addition, I cannot understand why in August, we specifically suggested to the Sheriff’s Department that we re-search the woods closest to Bryn’s home, we and Tyler County Search and Resuce were refused by Detective Currie.’
Mr Cornell’s daughter and assistant Laken Cornell-Stout, added: ‘As tragic as Bryn’s case has been, I hope that in his memory the State of West Virginia – and the multiple search and rescue teams in the state – take note that change is needed.
‘Proper national certification is a must. West Virginia has an epidemic of missing people and one of our most vital resources, K-9’s and their handlers, need to be taught and trained according to national standards.’
MailOnline contacted Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office.