Police searching for a missing 59-year-old man have found the body of the deceased male close to Whitehall Park in Darwen on Sunday morning.

Although no formal identification has taken place the body is believed to be that of Zbigniew Strzelczyk, who was reported missing after walking out of Royal Blackburn Hospital at about 8.25am on October 16.

Mr Strzelczyk’s family have been informed of the development and are being supported by specially trained officers.

Detective Inspector Jo Williams, of East CID, said: “First and foremost my thoughts are with Mr Strzelczyk’s family at this incredibly difficult time.

“While no formal identification has taken place, sadly we believe the body to be that of Mr Strzelczyk. Mr Strzelczyk’s family have been supported throughout the search by specially trained officers and that support will continue.

“Everybody was hoping for a more positive conclusion in this case, but I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody involved in the search in what have been very extremely challenging conditions.

“I would also like to thank the public for their support throughout the search process.”

The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be prepared for HM Coroner in due course.

A wide-scale search involving police officers and mountain rescue volunteers has been taking place since Mr Strzelczyk, a husband and father from Clitheroe, first went missing on October 16.

He was last sighted walking across Prospect Farm, off Bolton Road in the Bull Hill area of Darwen, around 4pm the same day but was not reported to have been seen again since then.

The search for Mr Strzelczyk included a heartfelt plea by his wife Grazyna Strzelczyk who described him as an 'adored husband' and appealed for help from the public and for her husband to be brought back home.

Officers had conducted a wide-ranging search of the area with around 50 officers searching moorland off the A666 and conducting enquiries in and around Darwen town centre.

Police then widened the investigation, conducting enquiries in hostels in the Bury and Bolton areas.

Officers also carried out extensive searches alongside Mountain Rescue and Mountain Rescue Search dogs.

Over 30 volunteers helped carry out searches on foot around the A666 towards Belmont.