updated 8/1/2006 5:33:50 PM ET 2006-08-01T21:33:50

Detectives using DNA evidence have arrested two men in the slaying of a 12-year-old boy who was stabbed with a kitchen knife and abandoned beside a bridle path in southern England nearly 40 years ago.

Police arrested a 55-year-old man from the northern city of Manchester and a 56-year-old man from the southern city of Brighton on suspicion of murder, Sue Heard, a Sussex police spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

The men were teenagers at the time 12-year-old Keith Lyon was killed.

Police also want to contact an English family who had a teenage son and that abruptly emigrated to Canada soon after the slaying, said Detective Inspector Tim Nunn.

“I believe there are people who know who committed this murder but have not had the confidence to speak to the police about it,” Nunn said. “Now is the time to do so, so that Keith’s remaining family can finally understand what happened.”

The breakthrough in the investigation came when workmen stumbled on a locked storeroom at a Brighton police station and discovered key evidence and the knife used to kill the boy, Heard said. The evidence had been misplaced, he said.

The slaying caused shock across Britain — in part because police quickly suspected that teenagers probably committed the crime. Police eventually took more than 5,000 fingerprints from youths.

Lyon left his home in Brighton to buy a geometry set on a Saturday afternoon in May 1967. He never returned.

He was found wearing his school uniform on a grass bank near a rural bridle path between the nearby villages of Ovingdean and Woodingdean, about 60 miles south of London. He had been stabbed 11 times in the chest, back and abdomen with a serrated kitchen knife.

Witnesses claimed there had been a scuffle between an older group of boys and Lyon, but no arrests were made. Police theorized that Lyon, a student at the posh Brighton and Hove Grammar school, was targeted by local youths because of his uniform.

Both suspects have been released under conditions that require them to return for more questioning on Nov. 14, police said. Neither man has been charged with any offense.

Lyon’s brother, Peter, bemoaned the fact that his parents died before seeing anyone brought to justice.

“I have had to live my life with not knowing why my brother died for 39 years, but knowing that the person or persons who murdered him is living their life without being punished,” he said in a statement.

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