POLICE have launched a murder investigation after a man’s body was found at a house in Farnworth.
Kelly Litherland, who has lived next door to 40-year-old Marc Jepson in Kildare Street, Farnworth, for two-and-a-half years, raised the alarm after her young daughter found him on his living room floor at 4.15pm on Wednesday.
It took the results of a post mortem carried out on Thursday night to conclude he had been asphyxiated and the murder hunt was launched.
Police are now appealing for witnesses, speaking to residents living nearby and trawling through CCTV footage in a bid to catch the killer.
Miss Litherland’s young daughter found Mr Jepson after going round to his end terraced house shortly after she got home from shopping with her mum.
Her devastated mum said: “I was only in the house five minutes when she came back round and said, ‘Uncle Mark’s asleep on the floor.
“When I walked in I expected him to be having one of his fits from not having taken his insulin properly.
“As soon as I touched his shoulder I knew he was dead. I just screamed and ran off crying.”
Police say he had been asphyxiated, but have not said whether it was caused by strangulation or suffocation.
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It is thought that Mr Jepson, a separated father-of-one, could have been dead in the house where he lived alone, for several hours.
Miss Litherland said: “I had rung him at 11.41 and got no reply, but I thought nothing of it because he has a nap in the afternoon.”
She added that Mr Jepson found work as a handyman and enjoyed being at boat yards and looking after his young daughter.
And she claimed he saved her toddler son’s life just before Christmas when the little boy had a fit and Mr Jepson rushed round to her house and put him in the recovery position.
Miss Litherland said: “He was the best bloke going. He was like a stepdad rather than a friend. He used to take me everywhere.”
The 24-year-old mum says she now wants to move house.
She added: “I don’t feel safe with my kids at night.
“I have only had three hours sleep in the last 48 hours listening for bangs and noises.”
She is mystified why Mr Jepson, who she says kept himself to himself, would become a target for a murderer.
Speaking at a press conference, Ch Supt Shaun Donnellan, from Bolton police, said: “At 4.30pm on March 5 we had a suspicious circumstances call at Kildare Street in Farnworth where they found an insecure property.
"The deceased man was lying on the floor. It would appear he had been killed by asphyxiation.
“The investigation is still very much in its infancy. The front door was open when police arrived, the man had a habit of leaving it open. The deceased was found lying on the floor.
“I think it’s fair to say the victim appeared to be well liked in the area. It is an unusual event for the area.”
He added: “That particular area has seen a reduction in violent crime. People shouldn’t feel unsafe. Police have stepped up patrols. We remain open minded about the culprit and we are making enquiries.
Ch Supt Donnellan said the victim suffered some facial injuries.
He added that it was “impossible” to know how long the victim had been dead for.
Ch Supt Donnellan said: “We are trying to find exactly what has led to this. The man was known to police, but not to his detriment.”
Det Supt Robert Tonge, of Greater Manchester Police's Major Incident Team, said: "Since the discovery of this man's body my detectives have been working to establish the circumstances surrounding his death.
"It is understandable that this is a worrying incident for people in Farnworth and they will have lots of questions.
"The investigation is still in a relatively early stage so we cannot yet go into huge detail about what led up to this tragic death.
"We can say that a man has lost his life in violent circumstances and that is clearly a tragedy. Alongside the investigation we have specially trained officers supporting the man's family and answering any questions they might have.
"We now want to hear from anyone who may have seen anything unusual or untoward in this area in the hours or days before 4.30pm on Wednesday.”
Police are stepping up patrols in the area and anyone with concerns is urged to go and speak to officers.
Anyone with information about the murder or who saw anything suspicious on or before Wednesday can call police on 0161 8565599 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.