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Widow forgives organist's killers

by Gavin Drake

Posted: 19 Jul 2013 @ 04:15

THE widow of the church organist who was murdered as he walked to church on Christmas Eve last year has prayed that his killers will find forgiveness (News, 25 December).

Ashley Foster, 22, was found guilty this week of the manslaughter of 68-year-old Alan Greaves. Jonathan Bowling, also 22, had earlier pleaded guilty to murder. The court heard that the pair had been walking the streets looking for somebody to attack. Foster claimed that he had simply watched the ferocious attack by Bowling.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE/PA

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Ashley Foster

Credit: SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE/PA

Ashley Foster

Sentencing was on Friday. Bowling was jailed for life, with a minimum tariff of 25 years. Foster was jailed for nine years.

Speaking outside Sheffield Crown Court, after Foster's conviction, 63-year-old Maureen Greaves described Alan as "a wonderful man who is so dearly missed". Supported by her family, she said: "our lives will never be the same again.

"Alan was a man who was driven by love and compassion, and he would not want any of us to hold on to feelings of hate and unforgiveness. So, in honour of Alan, and in honour of the God that we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn't end today," she said. "My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made them in his own image, and that God's great mercy will inspire both of them to true repentance."

The police officer who led the investigation into Alan Greaves' murder, Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, praised Mrs Greaves's "great strength and dignity". He described the investigation as a "long and complex inquiry".

And he said: "Alan Greaves suffered an appalling, extremely violent and totally unprovoked attack as he walked to church. In a matter of minutes, Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster had left an innocent man for dead."

The Revd Canon Simon Bessant, Vicar of St Saviour's, High Green, where Mr Greaves was walking to play the organ when he was attacked, said: "We condemn absolutely the evil attack upon Alan. Alan was intending to celebrate the coming of light at Christmas, yet he himself was the victim of darkness just a few minutes away from doors of the church.

"Alan . . . invested most of his life in the service of the people of Sheffield, having helped open a foodbank just weeks before his murder."

Maureen and Alan Greaves worked as Church Army evangelists in Sheffield. The mission agency's chief executive, Mark Russell, said that staff at the Church Army had been "shocked and devastated" since Alan's murder.

"I would like to pay tribute to Maureen, who, over the past months, has shown such enormous courage and faith through a really dreadful time. . . It has been a privilege to be with her and support her during the trial."

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