A SHOCKED walker told today of his horror at finding the body of a man in a cave.
Nineteen-year-old Gareth Anderson says he has been plagued by nightmares since he and two pals made the gruesome discovery.
Investigations are under way to establish the circumstances which saw the elderly man die in a remote area, not far from the A690 Durham Road.
It is believed the body may have been there for months.
The discovery was made by the three friends as they went from Hetton towards Low Pittington.
They saw something in a cave they were exploring at Beacon Hill on Tuesday afternoon, but when they took a closer look they realised it was a body.
Since then, they have been unable to sleep properly or eat as they struggle to cope with the ordeal.
Gareth said: “We were walking to Low Pittington and were walking over the hill when we decided to have a look about.
“I’ve been up there before hunting with the dogs, and we were having a little look about in the cave when we saw something on the ground.
“We all went into the cave with a torch to have a look and at first we thought it was a dog, but when we looked closer we saw it was a decomposing body.”
Shocked, the men fled the cave and ran to the nearest house where they alerted police to their find.
“It was horrible,” said Gareth, from Hetton. “There was just a skull and the decomposing body lying there at the bottom of the cave, wrapped in a blanket.”
There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
Wood used to light a fire was also found next to his body, indicating he may have taken shelter in the cave.
Gareth added: “It’s been haunting us. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat since then. It’s awful.”
Durham Police attended the scene, which remained cordoned off yesterday. A report is being prepared for the coroner.”
Extensive tests, including dental records, will now be carried out to identify the body.
The discovery comes less than a year after John Chapman, 67, went missing from his home in Wantage Road, Carville, on July 11.
He was spotted walking on Pittington Lane, towards Pittington, on the day he disappeared.