In more than five weeks since missing Blackpool man Jason Goldrick disappeared without a trace, police have launched - and since sidelined - a murder investigation but now say there is a slim hope he could still be alive.
Despite arresting a man on suspicion of killing the 50-year-old, who vanished from the Victoria Hospital at 11.30pm on Friday, November 1, police are again treating his disappearance as a missing persons case.
Their 47-year-old suspect has been released under investigation after being grilled by detectives, while a lengthy search of a home in Park Road, central Blackpool, failed to turn up any solid evidence of a killing, it is understood.
And in the latest twist, police searching for Mr Goldrick have been ordered to arrest him by magistrates in the resort, who put him on the wanted list after he missed a court appearance -- weeks after vanishing.
Defence lawyer Stephen Duffy told the court: "I understand the police have put out an alert for him as he is missing, and his family do not appear to know where he is."
Police are thought to be losing hope that Mr Goldrick will be found alive, with his family putting up posters and following the routes he may have taken after leaving the hospital, in Whinney Heys Road.
He walked towards East Park Drive but has not been seen since.
Det Ch Insp Pauline Stables, from the major investigations team, said: "Every day which goes by without finding Jason is more and more worrying. He has been missing for more than a month now and, while we have conducted numerous enquiries to find him, he has yet to be located.
"We remain committed to finding Jason and have a dedicated team of detectives working hard to try and find out what has happened to him and where he may be."
She added: "Jason's family has been left devastated by his disappearance. They just want to find him. Any information, however seemingly insignificant, could be crucial to locating him.
"We know he has previously used outbuildings as a place to stay and we would urge people to check sheds and garages in case he has sought shelter."
Police first issued a public appeal to find Mr Goldrick on Wednesday, November 11. That was cancelled by mistake the next day following an unconfirmed and erroneous sighting, before being reissued on Friday, November 13.
The 47-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday, November 27 - the same day Mr Goldrick failed to turn up to court - before being released under investigation two days later.
* Anyone with information about Mr Goldrick's disappearance should call 101, quoting 1156 of November 6. Immediate sightings should be reported by calling 999.