Family and friends of former rugby league star Bryn Hargreaves have come together to pay tribute to his memory after his body found more than a year after he vanished in the US.
The ex-St Helens player, 37, was reported missing after he did not turn up for work last January, sparking a major police hunt.
At the time of his disappearance, Bryn was working as a gas and oil pipe safety inspector and was living alone following his divorce from Amy Bombard two years previously. His family said he had become ‘isolated’ during the Covid lockdown and suggested he might move back to the UK, but on the last time they spoke to him on January 3 last year ‘he seemed fine’.
When officers arrived at his apartment in Morgantown in West Virginia, they found his door unlocked and his shower still running, and all of his belongings, including his phone and Apple laptop, sparking fears he had been abducted.
Announcing the news, his brother Gareth wrote on Facebook yesterday: ‘RIP Bryn Hargreaves. With incredible sadness I can confirm after 14 months we have finally found Bryn.
‘We still do not know the cause of death or what actually happened on 3/1/22. Thanks to all those that have helped in the search.’
Bryn, pictured with his ex-wife Amy, was reported missing in January last year when he failed to turn up for work
Bryn Hargreaves played in the Super League for Wigan, St Helens and Bradford, which he is seen representing here
Gareth Hargreaves announced the passing of his brother Bryn on Facebook yesterday
His mother Maria Andrews also wrote on social media: ‘Not something I wanted to be sharing. I’m in bits #heartbroken. My beautiful son Bryn.
‘I can’t think of any words to describe the pain xx.’
Two of Bryn’s former club’s, Bradford Bulls and Wigan Warriors have also paid tribute to his memory.
A spokesman for Bradford Bulls said: ‘We are extremely saddened to learn the body of former player Bryn Hargreaves has been found.
‘Our thoughts and condolences are with Bryn’s family and friends at this difficult time.’
Wigan Warriors echoed these sentiments, writing: ‘Wigan Warriors are saddened to learn of the passing of former player, Bryn Hargreaves.
‘Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.’
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Sky Sports Rugby League said: ‘The Rugby League community is saddened to learn of the passing of former player, Bryn Hargreaves.
‘Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.’
Sky Sports and Bryn’s former clubs Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls all paid tribute to his memory
A spokesman for the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office said at the time of his disappearance that Bryn was reported missing to them on January 16.
Sniffer dogs were deployed to the Cheat Lake area of Morgantown, but to no avail. Gareth said at the time: ‘It’s almost like he was abducted from his shower.
‘It’s certainly a fear of mine. Obviously he was having mental health issues and in severe pain with his back from a car accident in December.
‘I think the police thought he’d done something to himself and that certainly is a possibility that we also fear. But five months later, surely a body would have turned up.
‘It’s a bit strange if you wanted to disappear to leave your apartment unlocked with all your ID and some of your prized possessions.
‘It’s one of the reasons I can’t leave this. If he’s had a rubbish time and had enough so he’s taken himself away, that’s fair enough.
‘But if something has happened and we didn’t try to help or find him I could never forgive myself.’
Investigators launched a manhunt, which didn’t turn up any definitive leads.
His family launched a GoFundMe page to raise £20,000 to pay for a private investigator, however all searches drew a blank.
His mum and brother flew out to the USA on January 28 for seven weeks to search for Bryn.
Bryn, from Wigan, made 175 appearances in the sport’s top flight, Super League, for Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Bradford Bulls.
He retired from rugby aged just 26 after becoming disillusioned with the game and then moved to the US.
Bryn worked in the oil and gas industry and lived in Pittsburgh with his American wife Amy whom he met on holiday in Mexico in 2013.
He wed Amy in a ceremony in Pittsburgh attended by both their families but after four years they started to live apart and eventually filed for divorce.
Concerned friends told the Mirror that the divorce ‘must have devastated him’ because he was ‘so happy’ when they wed.
When the couple split, he moved to West Virginia, but Gareth said Bryn was left feeling isolated during the Covid lockdown and suggested he might move back to the UK.
Last December, Bryn was involved in an accident in his Jeep, leaving him with severe pain in his back and unable to drive, instead relying on Uber to get around.
Gareth previously said the private investigator had asked police if he could search a lake for Bryn’s body and confirmed he had some mental health issues.
But he had claimed police wouldn’t grant permission for the search, and though the family had the money for a private inquiry, this stopped them from moving forward.
Gareth previously said: ‘The private investigator said he couldn’t find any concrete evidence for anything.
‘But he believed Bryn was in a poor mental state, and he had more evidence to back that up.
Gareth Hargreaves, Bryn’s brother, announced the body of his brother had been found on Facebook yesterday
Bryn, from Wigan, made 175 appearances in the sport’s top flight, Super League, for Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Bradford Bulls
Bryn vanished from his home in Whisper Creek, just outside Morgantown in West Virginia (pictured) where he had moved following retirement from rugby
Bryn’s home was discovered empty and police said they were sure he was not using his Jeep, pictured
Bryn, originally from Wigan, made 175 appearances in the sport’s top flight, Super League, for Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Bradford Bulls. Here he plays for the latter in 2011
‘He believed he was more likely to have committed suicide, which we knew was a strong possibility. He wanted to search the lake again because he believed the initial search had some vulnerabilities. But the police wouldn’t grant that.’
Gareth said he had personally ‘struggled’ with not getting answers about his brother’s whereabouts after he had suddenly disappeared.
And he had claimed there had been lines of inquiry that police should have followed up on shortly after he went missing.
He said: ‘His phone has never been accessed, they haven’t been able to. They never really checked the CCTV if I’m honest, which was a bit frustrating.’
Bryn had a distinctive tattoo on his shoulder (pictured) which his family hoped would help track down their son
Hargreaves, pictured here on the right, played in the prop position and for Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Bradford Bulls
His family last spoke to him on Facetime on January 3 – making this one of the most recent photos of Bryn to emerge
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
Sadly, nobody was able to give a date or location where he was last seen or what he was wearing, which police said hindered their attempts to find him.
After news of Bryn’s death was shared on social media, other friends and family paid tribute to the ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ sportsman.
One relative wrote: ‘Heartbroken. My nephew was a kind, reserved and gentle giant and he gave you his right arm.’
A friend added: ‘RIP Bryn Hargreaves mi old mate.. tragic all this carry on lately with close friends and mates from growing up and playing rugby with going.. great memory’s as kids.. pisses me right off.. rip mate.’
Another said: ‘To the entire family, I am so sorry for the loss of Bryn. Time has not been easy over the past 14 months. Bryn made an impact on everyone he came in contact with and he was loved by so many people’.
No cause of death has yet been determined.