The body of a teenager has been found in woodlands days after he vanished after getting in a taxi to a train station.
Alex Davies, 18, had not been seen since Monday afternoon after leaving his home in Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.
Police today confirmed a body found on Wednesday in Parbold Hill, West Lancashire, is that of Alex.
They have described the murder as "truly shocking" and are desperately searching for the killer who carried out the "horrendous crime".
Alex's cause of death has yet to be established and a post-mortem is set to be carried out shortly, reports Liverpool Echo.
Earlier this week detectives had confirmed a murder investigation was underway almost as soon as the discovery was made, with officers initially unsure if the body was a man or woman.
Alex had recently been promoted to the job of lead sales assistant at Home Bargains and was looking forward to the future.
On Thursday, his boss Gerard Boylan said: "This [going missing] is not something that he does.
"It's a complete mystery.
"Alex had his whole future ahead of him, and he loves his job and had recently got himself a promotion.
"He comes from Skelmersdale and lives with his mum.
"He's an energetic, kind and helpful lad, who loved working with customers.
"He's not a shy bloke, and is the type of person who would talk to anyone.
"He's a brilliant lad."
Alex worked at Home Bargains for the last two years and had not used his mobile phone since Monday afternoon.
Lancashire Police launched a missing person enquiry, which was upgraded to "high-risk" on Thursday with the hunt reaching into its fourth day.
Mr Boylan added: "We've tried to look for him, but we just don't know where to start.
"His mum is coping as you would imagine.
"He recently started working full-time for us, and we are all really worried about him.
"He's got no reason to go missing, as far as we know.
"We're all drained and really worried."
Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Hurst, of Lancashire Police’s Force Major Investigation Team, said: “This is a truly shocking murder of a young man and my thoughts are with his family and friends at this desperately sad time.
"Alex was a much loved son and brother and his family are obviously distraught by what has happened.
“I have a dedicated team of officers and staff working on this enquiry and we are doing all we can to find whoever it is who has committed this horrific act.
“We are keeping an open mind for the reason Alex was in the Parbold area but it could be that he has arranged to meet someone. I would appeal to anyone with information which could assist to come forward.
“We are carrying out CCTV and house to house enquiries in the area to try and piece together Alex’s movements and to try to identify his killer but I need the public’s help as someone out there could hold the key to solving this horrendous crime.
“Furthermore, if you have seen anyone acting suspiciously or any unusual behaviour in the area in recent days, please come forward.
“It may be that someone you have some suspicions about someone you know – have they been acting out of character recently, do they have any unexplained injuries or have they come home with blood on their clothes?
“You may think you are doing the right thing protecting them but if anyone does have suspicions about an individual I would ask them to search their conscience and do the right thing and contact police. We need to find the person who has done this.”
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