3 05 2008

Man denies murdering ‘dearly missed’ disabled stepson

May 3, 2008

The Guardian


The stepfather of a disabled man whose decomposed remains were found in a suitcase at the family home broke his silence yesterday to say the family “dearly missed” the 22-year-old.

Brian Kirby, 36, and a 17-year-old were arrested on suspicion of murder last week after detectives discovered the body of James Hughes in a suitcase at the family home in Redditch, Worcestershire. Both men were released two days after their arrest but until yesterday Kirby had declined to comment.

Heather Wardle, 39, Hughes’s mother and Kirby’s long-term partner, was found at the base of a tree in dense woodland near the family home with a ligature around her neck days before Hughes’s body was found. A mother of four, she had been full-time carer for Hughes, who had the mental age of an 18-month-old child.

In a statement released by his solicitor, Kirby said: “We cannot express in words our feelings on being arrested by the police on suspicion of murder. We protested our innocence and the police released us without charge. This did not remove the grief that we continue to suffer.”

“We would like to thank the police for the sensitive way in which they dealt with this inquiry. We would also like to thank all our family, friends and work colleagues who have supported us and continue to support us during these difficult times.”

Kirby said his stepson, who had epilepsy, struggled to walk unaided and needed regular medication, was “a wonderful and special son and taught us about the important things in life”.

“He brought something special to everyone who had the privilege of knowing and meeting him. He was a son, brother and friend, and will be dearly missed.”

He described Wardle as “a devoted mother and partner”. “Her perseverance in providing care to James was second to none. Her parenting skills were an example for all. We will find it impossible to tell the younger members of the family where mummy is.”

A postmortem examination has failed to establish how Hughes died and officers are now awaiting the results of tests which they hope will reveal how decomposed his body was, and how he met his death. Police have said there are “many unanswered questions” in the investigation, and are attempting to trace Hughes’s last known appearances.

“It is a very unusual and tragic case and we will leave no stone unturned in trying to establish what happened,” Superintendent Jane Horwood said last week.

Kirby also expressed sympathy for James’s biological father. “Only those who have suffered the loss of a mother, son, partner and best friends will know what we are going through,” he said.

Kirby added that the family was now striving for normality and peace. “Time is a healer but only time will tell if it can heal the deep wounds left by our tragic loss,” he said.




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