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Tributes paid to organist murdered on Christmas Eve

31 December 2012


THE widow of Alan Greaves, a Reader and church organist who died after he was attacked as he walked to church on Christmas Eve, has thanked the congregation of St Saviour's, Mortomley, Sheffield, for their support.

Maureen Greaves, a Church Army evangelist, spoke to the congregation on Sunday morning: "I have prayed constantly for Alan, and I know that you have, too. I have never stopped crying for Alan, and I know that you have never stopped crying with me. I have grieved over the evil that has been done; and I know that you, too, have grieved over the evil that has been done. And I have prayed for you, and I know that you have prayed for me.

"I want to thank you, because I really have sensed your very deep love and affection for me. I know that you have loved Alan, and I know that you have loved me deeply. You were Alan's Christian family. He loved belonging to this church, as I do, too."

Mr Greaves, who was 68, left his home in the High Green area of Sheffield at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, to walk the short distance to the church where he was due to play the organ at the midnight communion service. At 11.15 p.m., he was found by a passer-by on the pavement, 300 metres from the church, with serious head injuries. He was taken to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, but died from his injuries on Thursday night.

At a press conference outside South Yorkshire Police headquarters on Friday afternoon, Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick said: "We cannot think of a motive why anybody would want to attack Mr Greaves. We haven't got a motive, we haven't got any suspects, and no arrests have been made. It is about keeping an open mind. This individual could come from the local community, or could come from further afield."

Part of a metal fence near the site of the attack on Mr Greaves has been removed by police for forensic examination; and officers are examining CCTV footage. Robbery has not been ruled out as a motive, but Det. Superintendent Fenwick said: "We are not aware of anything missing from Mr Greaves at this time."

The District Police Commander, Superintendent Shaun Morley, said: "High Green is a very close-knit community, and the attack on Mr Greaves is fairly unique in terms of the viciousness that was used. The community is very distressed, and we want to ensure that are reassured by the activities of South Yorkshire Police.

"This does seem to be an isolated incident . . . but we will be very visible in that community over the coming days and weeks to ensure that the community feels safe and is reassured by our presence."

The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, attended Sunday's service at St Saviour's. Earlier, he wrote to all the clergy in the diocese, urging them to pray for Mr Greaves's family, the church at High Green, and the Church Army.

Speaking to Sky News after the service, Dr Croft paid tribute to Mrs Greaves: "Maureen has been impressive and courageous throughout this week, in what must surely be the most difficult few days of her life. She spoke movingly of her appreciation for the love and prayers she has received from so many - particularly this congregation - and she spoke movingly of her Christian faith, and Alan's Christian faith, which has guided and strengthened her through this time of great crisis and trauma.

"Alan was clearly deeply loved and respected by the church congregation here, but also the wider community. He is well known; and the city and High Green have lost a good man and a shining light. Of course, murder is terrible whoever it happens to, but there is particular grief and outrage that it should be Alan."

The Vicar of St Saviour's, Canon Simon Bessant, said that Mr Greaves had served the people of Sheffield in his professional life as a social worker and through community work. "I can only find one word to describe Alan: and that is to say that he is a good man. . . There has been huge upset in the church family and in the wider community. Local councillors have been expressing their great sadness, because they knew him. There is a lot of shock out there."

The Chief Executive of the Church Army, Mark Russell, broke the news of Mr Greaves's death on Twitter, saying that he was "devastated" by the attack. "The thoughts and prayers of the whole Church Army family are with Maureen and her family at this awful time."

Speaking later, he described Mr Greaves as "a fundamental part of Maureen's ministry." He said: "I knew Alan really well. If you look on our website, you'll find a video about Maureen, and you'll see Alan in every scene, playing instruments or talking to kids.

"This is a couple who worked in probably one of the most deprived parts of Sheffield. They were just servant-hearted, phenomenal community people, who just recently set up a food bank on that estate. Alan was a fundamental part of that, too, making sure that other families had food on their plates on Christmas Day."

Last weekend, South Yorkshire Police arrested two Sheffield men on suspicion of murder. They have since been released on police bail, pending further inquiries.

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact South Yorkshire Police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, quoting incident number 1183 of Monday, 24 December 2012.

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