‘Heart of family’ mum found dead in woodland beside motorway after ‘trying to get home’

A daughter of a "remarkable" mum found dead[1] in woodland beside a motorway has paid tribute[2] to "the the heart and soul of the family".

Lillian Ferguson, 71, was discovered dead[3] near the M56 near Wythenshawe, Manchester, on Tuesday after vanishing[4] on New Year's Day, following her return from Ireland to see family.

Now her daughter Suzanne, 40, said Lillian was an "inspiration" and her sudden loss will leave a "huge void" in her family's lives. Suzanne said: "She was the heart and soul of our family who kept us all together. She was such a remarkable woman and we are all proud to say she was our mum. Even when she went missing she was in Ugg boots and a Burberry scarf, she always looked so glam."

Lillian, a single mother of five and a foster mum to her sister's children, had moved to Manchester from County Clare, Ireland, in the mid-1980s to start a new life. Despite just having "the clothes on their backs", Suzanne said her mum worked hard to make sure the family was always provided for.

Storm Henk: 94mph winds claim second victim as woman, 87, killed in fallen tree crash[5] Lillian was seen on CCTV at Manchester Airport after landing Lillian was seen on CCTV at Manchester Airport after landing ( GMP) Tributes have been paid to the gran, who lived in Manchester Tributes have been paid to the gran, who lived in Manchester ( MEN Media)

Speaking to Manchester Evening News[6], Suzanne said: "She was also a foster mum; not only did she bring up her five children, but she took in my auntie's three children when she died. She had been to visit my other sister for a break over Christmas[7] and was going to be back with us for the new year. She'd normally get the tram from the airport as it is the next stop, just a stone's throw away. Her friend was waiting for her at the stop and they would walk back together.

"My mum has walked back from that airport so many times because we live minutes away. I think she must have thought the trams weren't running with it being New Year's Eve. She must have taken a wrong turning, if she had carried on forward down the road, she would have been to the Etrop Grange Hotel, but she has turned left and come onto the slip road onto the motorway at junction five."

Lillian was described as a 'remarkable woman' Lillian was described as a 'remarkable woman' ( MEN Media)

Lillian, who had 25 grandchildren, took a different and unfamiliar route on Monday but it is not known why. Suzanne suspects her epilepsy, which sometimes caused her to have memory lapses, may have meant she became confused due to the lights from cars or fireworks to mark the new year. Lillian lived in Wythenshawe, just one mile from Manchester Airport, where she landed after her break.

But the pensioner was found by police in a wooded area beside a gated car park near the airport. Suzanne said she is certain her mum was "trying to get home" that night.

"She was found in a dangerous wooded area to the side of the motorway," Suzanne said. "She had scrambled through trees and ended up at high fence where there was a secure car park. That's where she was found.

"We were all so confused because she's never taken that route before. We still can't understand how or why she got onto the motorway. We were out searching those areas, but we would have never found her in that area. We know she was definitely trying to get back home.

"She had been caught on dashcams on the slip road. So many people shared my mum's photos and contacted the police with sightings. If it hadn't have been for them, the people of Manchester, who posted it or reported it, we may have never found her. We are so thankful to those people. We couldn't have coped with never finding her.

"It has been so amazing to see how highly people thought of her on social media. So many people who I don't even know are messaging me. If she didn't know she was loved then, she certainly will do now."

Suzanne said the family is now waiting on a post mortem to establish the cause of Lillian's death. Greater Manchester Police[8] have been approached for further details.


  1. ^ dead (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ tribute (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ Lillian Ferguson, 71, was discovered dead (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ vanishing (www.mirror.co.uk)
  5. ^ Storm Henk: 94mph winds claim second victim as woman, 87, killed in fallen tree crash (www.mirror.co.uk)
  6. ^ Manchester Evening News (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  7. ^ Christmas (www.mirror.co.uk)
  8. ^ Greater Manchester Police (www.mirror.co.uk)